SPI’s Carteaux touts heightened collaboration, advocacy for plastics

By Tony Deligio
Published: February 26th, 2013

Anaheim, CA—True to its new mission statement, Bill Carteaux, president and CEO of the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI; Washington, DC), stressed the trade group's commitment to end-of-life solutions for plastics during a Western Region trade luncheon held the same day SPI appointed a leader to its new recycling initiative.

Speaking on Feb. 13 at the Anaheim Marriott, Carteaux addressed a packed room, with many of those in attendance also participating in UBM Canon's collocated manufacturing shows, including Plastec West, at the adjacent Anaheim Convention Center (Feb. 12-14; UBM Canon is the parent company of PlasticsToday).

SPI Bill Carteaux
SPI President and CEO Bill Carteaux addresses attendees of a Western Region Luncheon on Feb. 13 in Anaheim, CA.

A few hours before Carteaux's presentation, SPI announced the appointment of Kim Holmes, most recently principal consultant at 4R Sustainability, where she served clients in the product manufacturing and recycling industries, to head up SPI's new recycling initiative. Prior to work at 4R, Holmes served as material supplier SABIC's advanced marketing manager, promoting its post-consumer recycled plastics portfolio.

Delivered a day after President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, Carteaux offered up a "State of the SPI" address, saying he wants plastics to be considered as "the preferred sustainable material," a description that challenges many of the current, widely held misconceptions about the material that are promoted by mis- or under-informed consumers.

"We can't allow the consumer to drive us out of business when they don't have all the scientific facts," Carteaux said.

Carteaux noted that more effective advocacy of the industry will be supported by greater involvement by brand owners, part of a push launched at NPE2012 to get large plastic-consuming brand owners a seat at the SPI table. Carteaux said the initiative gives brand owners full voting rights and spots on the board, with large multinational companies like 3M, Coke, John Deere, Pepsi, and more already signed up.

Carteaux also highlighted several areas being closely monitored by SPI and related trade groups, including:

Trans Pacific Partnership: Negotiations for the newest round of the trade agreement will begin in March. Carteaux said that of the 12 countries involved, U.S. plastic exports in 2011 totaled $32 billion.

Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA): SPI and others, including the American Chemistry Council (ACC) have long advocated for reforms to TSCA, which was passed in 1976 and provides the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to review and regulate chemicals in commerce. "TSCA really needs to be reformed," Carteaux said. "We truly believe that something will get done on a bipartisan basis this year if not next." Carteaux said SPI and others want to ensure that any new regulatory burden isn't shifted to processors. [Louisiana Senator David Vitter, who is sponsoring a reform bill, was most recently said to be considering a "piecemeal" approach, according to press reports.]

Regulatory challenges: Carteaux cited a MAPI study looking at the potentially negative effect of regulations on manufacturing, noting that since 1981, 40,000 regulations have been put in place. "I'm not saying all regulations are bad," Carteaux noted, "they're not—a lot of positive things have happened over the years—but we have to be smart about what regulations we put in place."

Conflict minerals: Carteaux also touched on how the 2012 Dodd-Frank Act, which sought to better regulate the financial industry, but could be having an adverse, and unexpected, impact on plastics due to regulations on so-called "conflict minerals." The rules could affect, for instance, Tungsten, which can be compounded into plastics as a radiopacifier in medical applications.

Food packaging safety: Carteaux explained that Japan, China, and India have signed a memorandum of understanding with the relevant U.S. organizations to standardize on some regulations.

Building standards: Carteaux also mentioned that the United States Greenbuilding Council (USGBC) has agreed to postpone balloting on its new LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard, v4, to June 2013. These standards have the potential to negatively impact plastic based building materials, including polyvinyl chloride.

Marine waste: Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) a program designed to reduce accidental pellet loss, which is sponsored by SPI, ACC, and the Canadian Plastics Industry Assn. (CPIA), was also mentioned, with Carteaux noting that out of approximately 10,000 processors, only about 200 had signed up. "[200] is a horrible number. We'd like to get as many companies to sign up as possible. This is an issue that we control," Carteaux stressed. "We can't blame anyone else."

Association cooperation: To deal with these and other issues as efficiently as possible, Carteaux also discussed the North American Plastics Alliance (NAPA), a combined SPI, ACC Plastics, and CPIA advocacy initiative. "[NAPA] makes sure we're not duplicating the various associations' dues dollars to do the same things," Carteaux said. "Don't let anyone tell you that the associations aren't working together."

In closing, Carteaux said the emphasis on collaboration between groups and key advocacy issues will culminate in a  July 24 Washington DC "Fly-In", where the goal will be to have 200-300 members from across all the groups descend on Capitol Hill. "We're all going to converge and show Washington why [plastics] is the third-largest manufacturing industry in the U.S.," Carteaux said.

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