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Processor planted seed for founding PPP

Lichtenberger had influence,
but Makrauer had the idea
By Adam Lashinsky
PLASTICS NEWS STAFF

PLASTICS NEWS January 20, 1992 - Page 3
 

The Partnership for Plastics Progress (American Plastics Council), perceived by many as a vehicle of and for the major resin companies, may not have been born at all if not for the efforts of one processor.

H. William Lichtenberger, the group's former chairman and outgoing president of Union Carbide Corp., whispered in the ears of his chief-executive counterparts at other resin companies and is credited widely with having the vision to begin PPP.

But whispering -- sometimes shouting -- in Lichtenberger's ear was George A. Makrauer, president and chief executive officer of Amko Plastics Inc. in Cincinnati.

Makrauer has made his influence felt far beyond that of executives of most mid-sized film extruders.

As chairman of the Degradable Plastics Council` and president of the Plastic Bag Association, he has been out front on several key image issues facing the industry. His most recent -- and potentially most significant -- role involved promoting the brainchild that became PPP.

'To me, the creation of the partnership is a reflection of supplier companies at their most senior levels genuinely listening to their customers and their customers' customers.'

George A. Makrauer
Amko Plastics Inc.

 

In interviews with Makrauer, Lichtenberger and other plastics industry observers familiar with the partnership's formation, a picture of Makrauer emerges as the key, behind-the-scenes player in organizing the industry to bolster its poor public image.

In late 1989, Makrauer began contacting his major resin suppliers to show them the research he had compiled detailing the paper industry's attempts to discredit plastics in the public arena. He charged that paper manufacturers orchestrated a widespread campaign to undermine plastics.

On Oct. 23, 1990, he flew to Danbury, Conn., to present his two-hour program to Lichtenberger and several other top Union Carbide Corp. executives. Duly impressed, Lichtenberger asked Makrauer if the Amko chief would be willing to repeat his presentation for other top resin company officials.

In a recent interview recounting that meeting, Makrauer said he told Lichtenberg: "You name the date, time and place, and I'll be there."

His timing could not have been better: One week later, Nov. 1, 1990, Makrauer heard on the 6 am. news that McDonald's restaurants would jettison the polystyrene foam clamshell in favor of a "paper" wrap for its hamburgers.

His first call was to Lichtenberger, who had not heard the news yet.

The following week, Makrauer said, he returned to Danbury to make his pitch again, this time to a group of Lichtenberger's peers that included Philip W. Matos (CEO) of Mobil Chemical Co., H. Eugene McBrayer (CEO) of Exxon Chemical Co., Ronald Yokum (CEO) of Quantum Chemical Corp., and Lee A. Shobe (Dirctor of Public Issues Management) of Dow Chemical Co.

Several months later, Lichtenberger began putting the partnership together, and slightly more than one year later, on Nov. 21, 1991, PPP showed itself in public for the first time.

"George has probably done more and worked harder on this whole issue, and if 1 were to credit any person for getting me excited about the problem, it was George," Lichtenberger said of Makrauer in an interview last month. "Hardly a week goes by where George and I don't talk about what's happening in his end of the industry that helps guide my actions in P-Three," which is how the Carbide official refers to PPP.

Lichtenberger, who stepped down as PPP chairman Jan. 13, has been named chairman and chief executive officer of the company to be formed by spinning off Union Carbide's industrial gases business.

For Makrauer -- who has taken plenty of heat in the industry, especially for his stand on degradables -- PPP's advancement represents a satisfying accomplishment.

"I am gratified that at the same time there are people in the industry who have viewed me as a crank, there is a group that views what I have said as reflective of industry points of view that deserve support," he said recently.

"To me, the creation of the partnership is a reflection of supplier companies at their most senior levels genuinely listening to their customers and their customers' customers."

Above all, Makrauer's key achievement seems to have been relaying tales from the battle front to top-level resin company executives, many of whom have been many layers removed from such seminal events as the papervs.-plastic grocery-bag wars.

"The partnership clearly reflects the issues of immediate and longterm impact on processors," Makrauer said.

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