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Mismanaging plastics: who's culpable?

When plastics and the plastics industry are being held responsible for the mismanagement of plastics products, the industry must take a stand. Many consumers and environmental activists are quick to point out that plastics products and the plastics industry are responsible for everything from overflowing landfills to the tragic and agonizing plastics-induced deaths of freshwater and saltwater creatures and waterfowl. How can one not demand responsible behavior on the part of the end user when we see footage of a seal suffering a slow death by strangulation from a piece of carelessly discarded monofilament fishing line or a plastic six-pack ring? We, industry and consumer alike, must demand responsible behavior. So let's set the record straight--who is culpable? Is it the industry that manufactures the product or is it the consumer or trash hauler (i.e., end user) who carelessly disposes of the product?

The problem is not the product: The problem is that the product is being mismanaged by the consumer or the final user/carrier of the product. And the end user, whether trash hauler or consumer, is the product manager.

Where does industry fit into this picture? There is some mismanagement of product by industry, but it is generally found in the storage, manufacturing, or shipping of material and final product. SPI has various programs, such as Operation Clean Sweep, that are an attempt to get industry to police itself and become environmentally responsible. However, making up for the transgressions of the past is a difficult if not impossible task to undertake. And if repairing some previously done damage has a significant impact on profits and losses, some companies choose to look the other way.

Industry's efforts, such as designing products for disassembly, manufacturing recyclable products, and collecting recyclable products, are steps in the right direction. Implementing and proper management of such efforts is an environmental mandate.

We don't need more information on plastics' contribution to society--we need more responsible product management by both consumer and post-consumer, and we must make the public aware of the problem. The plastics industry must continue to improve its management of materials in furthering this developer/user relationship. There is much more than Ps and Ls at risk. Careless, irresponsible handling of potentially hazardous materials is unconscionable.

This simply cannot continue.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Society of Plastics Engineers, Inc.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Ferris, Roger M.
Publication:Plastics Engineering
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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