How Plastic Bags Got Killed


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The demise of single-use plastic bags began at their start, shortly after being invented in the 1950s. The public's disdain for things "plastic" -- especially bags -- is due to shameful and short-term industry "leadership" without care or concern for any long-term and science-based support. This slideshow was delivered in 1998 as a warning to the Plastic Bag Association at its Annual Meeting, when that group was being merged into the Society of the Plastics Industry. The warning was ignored. Today's news tells the results. Written and presented by George Makrauer, president of Comad Group,

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How Plastic Bags Got Killed

  1. 1. Presentation to Annual Meeting of the Plastic Bag Association. Soon to be merged into The Society of the Plastics Industry. November 1998 George A. Makrauer
  2. 2. Welcome to Nearly the last meeting of the Plastic Bag Association. c Nearly the first meeting of the SPI Film and Bag Federation.
  3. 3. Purpose of Presentation Finally, set the record straight about plastic bags and the Plastic Bag Association’s successes as it moves into the new millennium.
  4. 4. This Presentation Complies With Correct Reporting About Plastics Index C.R.A.P. Index
  5. 5. Correct Reporting About Plastics Index Elements GV Graphic Violence AT Adult Themes CL Coarse Language BN Brief Nudity
  6. 6. Test at End of Presentation True or False Quiz What Was True? What Was False?
  7. 7. Please understand I am speaking for myself. d I am not representing PBA’s positions or beliefs. n If anyone is offended, do not criticize or blame PBA; tell me. e If anyone is offended; I apologize. e If anyone is offended; grow up. e If anyone is offended; I apologize.
  8. 8. George, haven’t we’ve heard this before… a Some of the story. y Only 18 of these slides have been presented before. e The other 824 slides in tonight’s presentation are new.
  9. 9. March 18, 1959 California Assembly Bill 2088 b Intent of the Bill was to Ban Plastic Garment Bags in California. ComAd Management Group, Inc.
  10. 10. Society of the Plastics Industry l Heard from bag producers and saw the threat. r Resin companies with plastics processors drafted a Model Bill. e Introduced and lobbied the Bill. o Bill became Law on July 7, 1959. o Preserved the existence of plastic garment bags in California.
  11. 11. Biggest Benefit The first battle of “paper vs. plastic” was won by plastics through a concerted effort of bag producers (Kordite, Mehl and Tuck Tape) and resin producers. ComAd Management Group, Inc.
  12. 12. SPI Took Another Step. Improved the Bill Following Year. The California Bill was amended in May 1960 in order to clarify that the intent of the printing requirement was to provide for a WARNING message, not a ban of the product. ComAd Management Group, Inc.
  13. 13. From the Beginning n Plastic Bag Industry was under attack. s Competitors’ objective was to ban plastic bags and preserve a paper bag market. SPI was involved in the defense with bag producers.
  14. 14. What’s This?
  15. 15. - 1937 - Log Mountain For press story on paper, which the average American consumed more of than any other substance except water and milk.
  16. 16. Obligatory Part of Any Presentation on Plastics 1967 ComAd Management Group, Inc.
  17. 17. - 1971 - SPI’s Public Affairs Council began (defensively) answering environmental questions. ComAd Management Group, Inc.
  18. 18. - 1972 - New York City put 2¢ per bag tax on plastic shoe bags.
  19. 19. FPA (then National Flexible Packaging Association) lobbied to remove tax.
  20. 20. - 1973 - Plastic “Refuse” begins to mount. Recycling it is difficult.
  21. 21. - April 1979 - USI News “Plastics under Attack - are the accusations justified?” Audience… preaching to choir...
  22. 22. - 1982 - Plastic bags really enter the grocery stores.
  23. 23. “Paper is better for the environment, because it comes from a Higher Level.”
  24. 24. Environmental Hypocrisy
  25. 25. - 1981 or ‘82 - FPA Plastic Grocery Sack Council Formed to Grow the Grocery Sack Market
  26. 26. - Members - Bag Makers; Resin, Ink, and Machinery Suppliers.
  27. 27. Promoted Plastic Grocery Bags Beneficial features of plastic bags to stores and consumers. m Reuse of plastic bags by consumers. Recycling of plastic bags.
  28. 28. Grew Market Share From 4% to 50%
  29. 29. American Paper Institute and Robert Marston Marketing Communications War Room
  30. 30. - 1983 - General Federation of Women’s Clubs began national program. Jeanne Bakelar toured U.S. All expenses paid by API.
  31. 31. Battle of the Check-Out Clerk Packaging Pins
  32. 32. Plastic Bag Association  1983 c PBA was created in 1983 by major paper bag companies that also produced plastic grocery sacks. l PBA was managed by staff group that managed two other associations: the Paper Bag Institute (PBI) and the Paper Shipping Sack Manufacturers Association (PSSMA). r PBA’s principal activity was monitoring plastic bag imports.
  33. 33. Plastic Bag Association Through the 1980’s, PBA membership grew to where the majority of members came to be plastic bag makers, resin producers, ink suppliers and machinery companies, not paper companies.
  34. 34. The “Crisis” of ‘87
  35. 35. Root cause of the garbage “crisis”.
  36. 36. American Paper Institute Picks New Director of Public Information
  37. 37. Behind the scenes… the paper association’s CEO.
  38. 38. Unmasked: API’s CEO and chief strategist Red Cavaney
  39. 39. API test markets Public Relations messages to plan plastics bashing program.
  40. 40. API tested believability of their PR messages on reliable focus group families.
  41. 41. More GFWC Stuff. Margaret Englund toured the U.S. All expenses were paid by API.
  42. 42. API created the “Pro-Environment Packaging Council” (PEPCO). PEPCO ran TV ads with dancing paper grocery bags and heavily promoted biodegradability.
  43. 43. PEPCO sent smiling representatives to PBA’s semi-annual meeting to deny any relationship with API and denied bashing plastic bags. PEPCO representatives were soundly booed.
  44. 44. PBA’s Technical Committee solved the degradability problem with their development of the Polytron.
  45. 45. Plastics Industry finally reacted. It retreated to the trenches of landfills and spent its resources promoting recycling and bashing degradables.
  46. 46. CSWS promoted plastic recycling using photos of paper bags.
  47. 47. Glass and Metal Industries loved and added to Plastic’s Image Problems. Full-Page WSJ Ad.
  48. 48. Politicians Found An Issue
  49. 49. Robert Kennedy John McKernan, Jr. CEO Union Carbide Governor of Maine
  50. 50. January 1, 1990 Maine Banned Plastic Bags at Retail Checkout.
  51. 51. Maine’s Governor Had a Brother Robert McKernan Bob McKernan was a paid Washington staff lobbyist for the American Paper Institute. ComAd Management Group, Inc.
  52. 52. June 10, 1991 Maine Retailers Can Use Plastic Bags Again.
  53. 53. Plastic Bag Association - 1990 c After receiving no staff support to address the flood of paper industry attacks, PBA severed its association management relationship with the PBI/PSSMA staff group. g PBA became conflict-independent through its management by Association Management Group. (Holly Munter & Peter Rush)
  54. 54. Management Search Committee h Len Levy, Poly-Pak Industries a Charlie Pearl, Equitable Bag Co. q Jay Warner, Uniflex, Inc. l George Makrauer, Amko Plastics Inc.
  55. 55. Let me say a word about Holly Munter of the PBA. Grrrreat!
  56. 56. Suffolk County Political Conspiracy
  57. 57. Suffolk County Tragedy In total, scores of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money, individual companies’ money, industry associations’ money and consumer expenditures were wasted by the political aspirations of one man and the short-sighted strategies of the American Paper Institute.
  58. 58. Suffolk County Success The PBA, SPI, FPA, Poly-Pak Industries, many food-service related groups and separate companies in plastics, packaging and retailing worked individually and together to ultimately have the Suffolk County law modified, appealed and ignored.
  59. 59. Meanwhile, McDonald’s and EDF were at work. (Environmental Defense Fund) e Entered into a joint “cooperative agreement” to analyze plastic and paper packaging to determine the “environmentally best” package. EDF became increasingly dissatisfied with sound-science approach.
  60. 60. After an EDF Threat, McDonald’s Dropped Bomb on Plastics Industry.
  61. 61. November 2, 1990
  62. 62. American Plastics Council (APC) 1990 s APC established by resin companies, first named the “Partnership for Plastics Progress”. Was created to get out of the landfills and to present the benefits of plastics to U.S. consumers by giving people “another look at plastics”. l Began with a $50 million annual campaign of public information, education and relations. c PBA’s effective PR work and messages in presenting the benefits of plastics became part of APC’s story.
  63. 63. PBA’s hard work showed that consumers, educators, students and the news media would revisit plastic bags and “take another look”, because PBA was telling a great story based on solid facts presented in effective messages. e Plastic bags’ advantages in source reduction, energy conservation, waste prevention and transportation-warehousing savings were featured in APC advertising and promotion. a Plastic bags’ convenience and cost benefits to retailers and consumers became recognized and more appreciated.
  64. 64. PBA commissioned study of plastic bags’ contributions to Global Warming and Ozone Depletion. PBA found contamination!!!
  65. 65. Real threat to the environment was uncontrolled spewing of hot air from Barry Commoner of Greenpeace.
  66. 66. Published new book used in college-level environmental studies and “science” curricula.
  67. 67. Commoner’s wistful vision.
  68. 68. Commoner’s belief in the root cause of pollution.
  69. 69. Commoner’s covert agent...
  70. 70. At Washington press conference, EDF and Greenpeace called a national boycott against plastic bags and the plastics industry.
  71. 71. 1990 - PBA Public Relations c New PR committee formed. Chaired by Carlos Ruiz of Dow. s Committee comprised of Carlos Ruiz, Sue Petrie +1 (Dow); Mobil; Keith Atkins (Union Carbide); Ron Schmieder (Sonoco); Len Levy (Poly-Pak); George Makrauer (Amko Plastics). ( First selected a large, national, Washington-based PR firm. Ultimately selected Nellis Communications. (Now - St. George Group) e Focused, committed, hard-working and effective.
  72. 72. St. George Group Nellis Communications t Jim Nellis t Nanette Kirsch t Lynne Rackley
  73. 73. Clean-Production Bag Making In Action High Density Bag Plant on Long Island. Low Density Bag Plant 3rd-shift emissions. 3rd-shift emissions.
  74. 74. PBA’s “Is plastic okay?” check-out program. First-selected spokesperson.
  75. 75. Franklin Associates’ Life Cycle Analysis of Plastic Bags Had Some Bugs.
  76. 76. PBA “Stacks of Bags”. A picture says a thousand words.
  77. 77. PBA National Activities i Set up Plastic Bag Recycling Collection Center location consumer toll-free hotline to direct consumers to collection centers. Identified 15,000 locations. 0 Identified 11,000 locations. 0 Identified 12,000 locations. 0 Identified 11,500 locations. 0 Sometimes had trouble identifying locations.
  78. 78. PBA National Activities (cont’d.) i Public education/relations releases. / Radio tours. / Focus group data collection. Press releases on industry achievements. n Member company local plant tours. o Consumer and educator trade show exhibits. c Support from/cooperation with SPI, APC and CFECA.
  79. 79. 1998 Highlights January thru June e Over 630,000 visits to Web site! i Nearly 10,000 Education program requests! u Exhibited at 4 major trade shows Plastic Bag Association
  80. 80. Elementary Education Program 1998 January through June results 3000 2518 2500 Kits 2000 1371 1500 1125 1000 677 500 0 1995 1996 1997 1998 Plastic Bag Association
  81. 81. Middle-School Program Year-to-date results 900 819 800 731 700 600 500 Po sters 400 Kits 300 268 200 100 0 1997 1998 Plastic Bag Association
  82. 82. The White House Took Notice: Bill and Hillary personally took PBA’s education program to heart and to children.
  83. 83. PBA’s second picture says two thousand words.
  84. 84. The Big Question Remained: “Do you want paper or plastic?” Although the most frequent answer was heard at grocery store counters ... … the clearest answer was seen in Washington at the APC.
  85. 85. Unmasked Again in 1995: The American Plastics Council’s New CEO, Red Cavaney
  86. 86. July 14, 1997 - Time Magazine
  87. 87. PBA’s Partners in Work n SPI n APC n CFECA n SPI of Canada
  88. 88. CFECA - California Film Extruders and Converters Association s Financial contributor to PBA membership and PR funding. b Norma Fox, CFECA executive director, represented CFECA in PBA meetings and program discussions. u Norma and other CFECA people represented PBA educational programs at Educational Trade Show exhibits.
  89. 89. CFECA - California Film Extruders and Converters Association s Robert Bateman, president of CFECA and former PBA president, has led the relationship-building between the two groups.
  90. 90. CFECA - California Film Extruders and Converters Association s Most significantly, CFECA established and proved the model for regional association success on which to build a national federation of plastic film and bag producers and their suppliers working on national, regional and local objectives. a Unique packaging industry association structure and opportunity.
  91. 91. Society of the Plastics Industry Canada l Roger Keeley, Atlantic Packaging, highly involved in PBA activities. i Roger Keeley, has kept us laughing. s Charmian Entine, Executive Director, has been attending PBA meetings and working with members and staff. Represented PBA educational programs at Educational Trade Show exhibits. a Offering insights into Canadian industry and market issues.
  92. 92. Recycling/Technical Committee c Robert Bateman (Roplast) ( Jim Funderburk (First Brands Corp.) ( Bob Householder (Sonoco)
  93. 93. Membership Len Levy (Poly-Pak) P Marti Fernandi (Ampacet) ( Fredy Steng (Uniplast Films)
  94. 94. Public Relations Chairs George Makrauer (Amko Plastics) ( Carlos Ruiz (Dow Plastics) Gus Garrett (Dow Plastics) Tony Kingsbury (Dow Plastics)
  95. 95. Treasurer Ron Basso (Continental Superbag) i Ron Basso (Continental Superbag) i Ron Basso (Continental Superbag) i Ron Basso (Continental Superbag) i Where’s the money, Ron?
  96. 96. PBA Presidents Amorphous Paper People - pre-1987 P Bob Krissel (Equitable Bag) - 87/88 u Jack Kaltman (Continental Extrusion) - 88/89 o Robert Bateman (Roplast Industries) - 89/90 ( George Makrauer (Amko Plastics) - 90/92 Len Levy (Poly-Pak) - 92/94 P Ron Schmieder (Sonoco Products) - 94/96 S Jim Funderburk (First Brands Corp.) - 96/98
  97. 97. PBA’s Contributions to Plastics Industry Voiced by industry analyst, September 1998. r “Of all the plastic trade associations, PBA was able to do the most good with the least amount of money.” o “Both its Web site and materials far outclassed and out-performed everyone else.” d “The lesson? High member involvement, respect for those doing the work (both members and outside consultants), and little bureaucracy.”
  98. 98. Anything left to do? Economic development of the plastic bag industry. m Marketing - existing and new products t Technology t Government Relations i Be alert to future threats. r Be proactive about future threats.
  99. 99. OVERNIGHT DELIVERY PREFERRED PACKAGING l Published Report: “Accelerating Environmental Leadership in the Overnight Shipping Industry.” e Sponsored by The Alliance for Environmental Innovation -- A Project of the Environmental Defense Fund and The Pew Charitable Trusts. December 1997. Reusable-returnable paper envelopes, not plastic.
  100. 100. Same Tactics Used With McDonald’s Are Underway n Convince the overnight-courier leader of merits of switching to non-plastic package. i Coerce industry’s other major carriers to follow leader’s lead. l Eliminate as much of the use of plastic film envelopes as possible. s Use that example (and McDonald’s) when pressuring other industries to use less plastic.
  101. 101. Composting Killing Plastic Bags n Growing number of states are banning yard, leaf and lawn “plastic” bags. a Choice #1: Fight the bans. Choice #2: Introduce compostable bags and fight the bans to allow them. n Choice #3: Just try to fight the bans.
  102. 102. Litter Plastic Bag and Film litter is increasingly and highly visible and present in urban, rural, commercial, residential and transportation venues. It’s a present and potential liability. i Flexible Packaging Growth Spreads More. n State legislation n National coalition o Keep America Beautiful u Keep (States) Beautiful
  103. 103. quot;I greatly admire the work of this organization. No group has had a larger impact on the thinking Americans bring to the environment; on the way we, as a nation, converse about the problems that beset the environment.quot; -- Vice President Al Gore, September 23, 1993
  104. 104. “The Earth Communications Office (ECO) is a non-profit environmental organization whose goal is to use the power of communications to help improve the global environment. ECO Public Service Announcements in theaters have been seen by over one hundred million people in 20,000 of the 24,000 movie theaters in the United States. Theater owners and managers have submitted astounding reports of their audiences breaking into cheers and applause at the end of our brief PSA's.”
  105. 105. “Germany’s Red & Green Government” Germany’s Green leader Joschka Fischer (left) and Socialist Democrat leader Gerhard Schröder formed a coalition, and Fischer became Germany’s first Green government minister.
  106. 106. The Green influence in Germany will increasingly spread across the European Economic Community, and it will influence environmental pressures in the U.S. ISO-14000 will institutionalize pressures. What influence will that impact have on plastic bags made in the US?
  107. 107. Red/Green Coalition’s First Actions October 4, 1998 - by The Associated Press BONN, Germany (AP) -- ... will repeal cuts in pensions passed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl before they take effect Jan. 1.…and will also “immediately'' implement another campaign promise: repeal a 1996 law allowing employers to cut sick pay by 20 percent. ... talks... (include) raising energy taxes...and shutting down the country's nuclear power reactors. …the Greens' transport expert, Gila Altmann, said that the new center-left government may support setting a speed limit of 120-130 kph (75-80 mph) on Germany's autobahns. ...Greens leader Joschka Fischer is first Green Party foreign minister
  108. 108. American Forest and Paper Association a Clear stated goal. l Rebuild grocery check-out bag market share. c Increase the number of consumers who ask for paper grocery bags.
  109. 109. Earth Day Groceries Project - 1994 i Students get paper grocery bags. e Decorate bags with pictures of the earth, environmental messages, name of school, similar messages. a A couple of days before Earth Day, students return decorated bags to store. Store distributes decorated bags (full of groceries) to happy shoppers on Earth Day. s In 1997, the Paper Bag Council of the American Forest & Paper Association joined forces with the Earth Day Groceries Project. School emails Colleen Shine, Youth Outreach Coordinator for the Paper Bag Council, and she arranges for school to get paper grocery bags - at no cost to school or grocer. r “The American Forest and Paper Association is happy to provide these bags when needed, but schools are strongly encouraged to first enlist the full participation of a local store, as this project has wonderful community relations value.”
  110. 110. Students Decorate Bags
  111. 111. Decorated Bags Brought to Store.
  112. 112. And delivered to check-out counters.
  113. 113. Students fly kites made out of decorated paper bags.
  114. 114. One school “had” to use plastic bags to deliver paper bags during rain.
  115. 115. Examples of art-deco paper bags.
  116. 116. “Our local grocery store does not use paper bags. They use plastic bags. So we are putting messages in the bags. So that we don't waste good paper, we are putting messages on recycled paper.”
  117. 117. The Earth Day Groceries Project: Facts and Figures
  118. 118. Earth Day Groceries Project Website i Clear s Concise s Clean graphics s Inviting s Updated monthly s American Paper & Forest Products Association site and email links
  119. 119. APC’s Website Homepage - October 1998 m Five Major Myths About Garbage and Why They're Wrong - Smithsonian, July 1992 m Collecting Plastic Bottles More Efficiently - Resource Recycling , September 1994 n CPR Breathes New Life Into Plastics Processing - Resource Recycling, June 1996 n False Economy: The Folly of Demand-Side Recycling - Environment, January/February 1994 r Quality Control Methods Ensure High-Quality Plastics For Recycling - Resource Recycling, October 1996 n Good Service = Expanded Recycling - Resource Recycling , December 1996
  120. 120. Paper Mounting Increased Attack on Plastics c September’s “Resource Recycling Magazine” 12-page insert. e New style TV image ads: “My mom makes the new meilk cartons at IP.” i “Paper is better for the environment, because it comes from a Higher Level.” Yada-yada-yada déjà vu.
  121. 121. Plastic Bag Association c Into the 3rd Millennium in the SPI as the Plastic Bag and Film Federation. F Continuing success for plastic bag companies (i.e., putting revenue dollars into profits and dividends rather than spending on expensive defensive attacks) will require the continuing involvement and support of the old hands…and involvement and support from new blood and guts in the SPI Film and Bag Federation.
  122. 122. SPI Film and Bag Federation (FBF) Work New strategic planning session. a A Vision for 2000 and beyond. 0 A Mission for its goals and work. s Strategic imperatives to drive the mission. t Applied projects to fulfill the mission.
  123. 123. “Paper or Plastic?”
  124. 124. If it had only been that simple……
  125. 125. It’s not simple, but if people here make it happen... …the new Federation will grow and expand on PBA’s successful programs and will be able to contribute more economic value-building to SPI Film and Bag Federation member companies.
  126. 126. What’s next?
  127. 127. Now - time to eat and enjoy dessert served by PBA’s Jim Funderburk.
  128. 128. Thank you. . .