Plastics News - May 20, 2019 - 6

6 * Plastics News, May 20, 2019

: FRANK ESPOSITO

Lessons from a plastic bag stuck in a tree in Ohio

A

s I was driving to the
second day of the Compounding World trade
show, something caught

my eye.
Off to the side of the highway
as I drove toward downtown
Cleveland, a black plastic bag
was fluttering in the branches of
a tree, stuck there for thousands
of drivers to see as we made our
way into town.
I couldn't have asked for a
better symbol to explain the
mood of the many materials
firms that I spoke with at the
two-day event, which was hosted by the AMI consulting firm
and also focused on recycling
and extrusion.
Materials firms are trying
their best but are confronted
with negative
images - like
a plastic bag
stuck in a tree
along a busy
highway. Many
firms are doing
well this year
from a sales
and
growth
standpoint.
They're trying
Esposito
to use more
recycled content, although finding enough
material can be a challenge.
One longtime materials executive told me that his firm is
having difficulty meeting its sustainability goals. Another said
his firm still was searching for
sustainable applications to promote to its customers.
There also was a good deal of
frustration at the amount of image-bashing that plastics have
received worldwide, especially
in the last 18 months. Executives who have spent decades
working in the industry find it
hard to believe that the many

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merits of plastics can be negated by a 2-minute online video on
plastics pollution.
But that's the environment of
2019. Anti-plastics groups can
find an audience almost immediately, while the plastics industry, for the most part, has had to
play defense and has struggled
to do so.
Many plastics firms have a
hard time with the idea that
emotion can be stronger than
intellect, especially when images of animals such as turtles or
birds trapped in plastic are used.
When these examples are cited
at conferences, there's always
some chuckling and eye-rolling
in the crowd.
Sadly, this is not a productive
reaction because those images are very strong and connect

with viewers. Can you imagine
the impact of a video showing
a puppy or a kitten trapped in
a plastic bag or by plastic wire?
That might cause the internet to
explode and lead to dozens of
plastics processing firms going
out of business in a matter of
months. The backlash would be
immediate.
It's a challenge for plastics
execs to find ways to simplify
their pro-plastics comments
into ways that resonate with
consumers. Plastic straw bans
are an example of this messaging problem. Mentioning straw
bans also draws snickers from
crowds at plastics events, but
the bans caused many consumers to change their behavior
and buying habits in a relatively
short amount of time.

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: PLASTICSNEWS.COM

Possible solutions? The role
of plastics in preserving food -
and allowing greater numbers of
people to be fed - has a strong
emotional pull. Plastics being
used in lifesaving medical applications also gets a positive reaction. These applications were
mentioned by several execs at
Compounding World and would
serve as a strong focus for future defenses of plastics.
What happened to that black
plastic bag I saw stuck in a tree
in Cleveland? Did it end up in a
landfill or was it recycled or reused? The answer to those questions will have a big impact on
the future of the plastics market.
Esposito is a Plastics News senior reporter. Follow him on Twitter @fesposito22.

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PLASTICS NEWS NOW

Taiwanese machinery
makers optimistic
they could benefit
from trade war
Several Taiwanese machine makers
said they believed if the trade war
between China and the United States
continued, they would ultimately
benefit because U.S. buyers would
avoid Chinese machines.
Officials with FCS Machinery
Manufacture Co. Ltd. said orders were
down in the second half of 2018 and
the first part of 2019, but they were
optimistic for the second half of 2019.

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Plastics News - May 20, 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Plastics News - May 20, 2019

Plastics News - May 20, 2019 - 1
Plastics News - May 20, 2019 - 2
Plastics News - May 20, 2019 - 3
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Plastics News - May 20, 2019 - 6
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