had the idea
By Adam Lashinsky
PLASTICS NEWS STAFF
The Partnership for Plastics
Progress, 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
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
|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 of
Mobil Chemical Co., H. Eugene McBrayer of Exxon Chemical Co., Ronald
of Quantum Chemical Corp., and Lee A. Shobe 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,
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
Above all, Makrauer's key
achievement seems to have been relaying tales from the battle front
to top-level resin company executives, many of
been many layers removed from such seminal events as the papervs.-plastic
" The partnership clearly reflects the issues of immediate and longterm
on processors," Makrauer said.