North American Plastics Associations Take a United Front
By Susan Avery, CAE, IAPD Executive Director
It's official: The most prominent North American plastics associations have formally organized. The group, initially termed PAL (Plastics Association Leaders) will collaborate to battle the negative perceptions about plastics, anti-plastic regulation/legislation, codes and standards designed to push deselection of plastics. PAL will also coordinate positive end-user and consumer media and social media campaigns to improve and help grow the markets for plastics. PAL has met twice to begin what will be a long-term collaboration to improve the overall market and regulatory environment for plastics.
PAL active participants include the International Association of Plastics Distribution (IAPD), American Chemistry Councils Plastics Division (ACC), Society of Plastics Industry (SPI), The Vinyl Institute, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), the Plastics Pipe and Fittings Association (PPFA), Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI), Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association, Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), Anipac, Plastics Pipe Institute (PPI) and the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA).
The origin of this group started with two parallel visions: one from IAPD and the other from SPI. IAPD envisioned plastics associations uniting and collaborating to take on the negative environmental perceptions, legislative and regulatory issues and the overall market development for plastics. IAPD approached the ACC and SPI to help recruit other associations to these efforts. Little did we know that SPI President Bill Carteaux had a similar vision that he and Jay Gardiner, a plastics industry consultant, had mapped out called Project Sandbox. Once the conversations between IAPD and SPI started, the vision began to take form into what is now PAL. Note that PAL is different than the North American Plastics Alliance (NAPA), which consists of ACC, SPI and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association and eventually Anipac. NAPA was formed to solidify a relationship among the three organizations to last beyond the Executive Directors/CEOs of the organizations and to finally put to rest a long-running media nightmare that has played out in the trade press regarding historical issues among the associations.
Where is IAPD's role in all of this? IAPD represents a niche of the overall plastics industry. We recognize that much of the current regulation and negative media attention is focused on areas that don't necessarily directly involve IAPD members; however, as IAPD has become more educated on the issues, even launching our own government relations program, we are seeing the creeping of the issues merge into our niche of the industry. Some examples include:
- Operation Clean Sweep (OSC) sponsored by the ACC. Initially, OCS was a coalition to battle the media barrage of large islands of plastics and other debris floating around the oceans and bodies of water around the globe. Upon first glance, this alliance and its focus did not seem relevant to IAPD, as it represented more of a plastics packaging industry problem. However, now we are seeing the media pick up pictures of plastics resin pellets in the sand and gravel in the river streams and other areas. Essentially, OCS is relevant to our niche because it covers any company that handles resin pellets, especially our manufacturers and their transportation and logistics companies who transport the resin.
- Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). EPR is a definite threat to our niche of the industry. As we track this issue, there is a very real possibility of our downstream distributors being responsible for product all the way to the consumer level.
- PVC Piping versus Iron Piping for infrastructure installation or replacement. If you want to see what a real negative deselection attack looks like, visit the Iron for America campaign that has been launched to support deselection of PVC piping use. The stakes are significant: Over the next 25 years, governments will spend more than US$1 trillion on these projects.
- LEED Green Building Certifications. Another tactic is to push deselection of plastics through standards and codes. Changes to the LEED Green Building Certifications (which have been adopted by the General Services Administration) and the new International Green Construction Code 2012 are examples of plastics being attacked at the certification/code level and requires active participation from our industry so plastics are protected.
These are just some of the issues that IAPD has in common with other associations. These issues solidify the need for IAPD to be engaged with the overall plastics community, as well as protect our own niche interests through active engagement in governmental relations.
IAPD is just getting started. We need your help. Large or small, stock shapes or PVF, manufacturer or distributor, it takes a strong association, industry and community to protect our interests. Stay involved with IAPD and be on the lookout for information about IAPD's governmental relations programs and alliance efforts. We are IAPD and we are united.