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February 21, 1994

In retrospect, maybe it was a mistake to involve the ``big boys''-the chiefs of the largest chemicals businesses-in the American Plastics Council. That's one conclusion we reach as we observe what may become a battle royal over the future of the APC, as directors debate whether to abandon the group's affiliation with the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. in favor of the Chemical Manufacturers Association.

How contentious is this issue? Consider that one SPI staffer has sent a letter to processor members urging them to lobby their resin suppliers-who also are SPI members-against the move.

Such an end-around maneuver is a complete departure from typical SPI practice: Show a unified front. How will supplier members react? We can only guess at the future impact.

But first, some history. The Council for Solid Waste Solutions, a precursor group to APC, included essentially the same resin company members as APC. But a key difference was in the representatives they sent to CSWS meetings.

For the most part, the CSWS board included the heads of each company's plastics business. The APC board, on the other hand, comprises the bosses of the CSWS group-typically, the head of each company's chemicals business.

The idea at the time was that the challenges facing the plastics industry were so important, and required such an influx of money, that the top dogs needed to get personally involved.

We agree. Apparently, however, those officials are forgetting that the issues do not affect them alone.

Many processor members of SPI are eager to be involved with APC. In fact, it was a processor, George Makrauer of Amko Plastics Inc. in Cincinnati, who planted the idea for what would become APC, as a means of fighting what he believed was unfair criticism of plastics by paper manufacturers.

Perhaps the APC directors are more comfortable with CMA, its leaders, and its organization. But a decision to leave SPI gives the appearance of abandoning the rest of the industry.

We have urged plastics processors to scrutinize calls for help from the supplier-run APC, and, when they believe it in their best interests, to get involved in the grassroots campaign. The effort, dubbed the Plastics Industry Mobilization campaign, is just now getting off the ground. It probably will work best in times of crisis, but needs to be there to harness processors' energies and work to change the anti-plastics sentiment that threatens the industry.

Chemicals probably suffer an even lower public perception than plastics. Undoubtedly, it will be more difficult to involve processors with a group with closer ties to the chemicals industry than the plastics industry.

George A. Makrauer

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