NERC’s newest Sustaining Advisory Member, the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS), is as its name implies a nonprofit trade association advocating for the plastics industry. It’s no secret that these are trying and possibly transformative times for the industry and its advocates, as well as for critics who call for more effective plastics recycling and curbs on the use of such single-use plastics as bags and straws. As the association’s tagline—Better Industry, Better World—suggests, the Plastics Industry Association seeks to chart a course that prioritizes the concerns of the industry it represents while accounting for society’s demands for waste minimization.
A recent blog post from April on the association’s website argues, “Creating prohibitions on plastics just doesn’t make sense. Finding a solution to people’s wanton disregard for proper disposal of trash should be the goal. That, coupled with aggressive collection and recycling practices can be one of the keys to rectifying the situation.”
PLASTICS’ Sustainability Statement emphasizes the necessity for the plastics industry to embrace effective sustainability measures. “Sustainable plastic manufacturing conducts business in a way that seeks to drive value creation for society, the environment, and the industry,” it states. “It also strives for improvement to reduce impacts on natural resources, minimizing waste generation, and shifting toward renewable energy options; all of which reduces greenhouse gas impacts.”
The Statement details some of the ways in which PLASTICS can help the industry become more sustainable:
- Promoting the use of recycled plastics in new products.
- Educating companies about how to recycle more and make their products easier for consumers to recycle.
- Demonstrating viable business models for collecting and recycling different types of plastic materials from locations like offices, hospitals and other areas.
- Incentivizing companies to eliminate waste and increase recycling.
- Measuring the amount of wasted recyclable plastic material.
PLASTICS partners with other industry groups and leading companies throughout the plastics supply chain to continually improve the performance and recovery of plastic products and packaging. In Berks County, Pennsylvania, PLASTICS is supporting the Material Recovery for the Future research program that is on track to produce 6,000,000 pounds of recycled flexible plastic packaging from the consumer waste stream – extending the useful life of this very innovative technology. The Association recently completed a secondary sorting demonstration project in Portland, Oregon that demonstrated an estimated 50,000 tons per year of additional recyclable material could be recovered in the region through the utilization of additional mechanical sorting equipment. They also run a sustainability initiative, the Zero Net Waste (ZNW) program, which equips its participants with tools to divert up to 90% of their total waste away from the landfill, engage employees in environmental efforts, avoid landfill costs and generate revenue by recycling.
No one who reads the news would deny that a sustainable plastics industry is key to a circular economy and the environmental benefits that such a development provides. It is in the spirit of bringing the voices of all stakeholders to the table that NERC welcomes the Plastics Industry Association as its newest Sustaining Advisory Member.