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Plastics: making the message count

By Hamish Champ
Posted 8 February 2013

Consumers by and large like to know that what is claimed to be in the things they buy actually is in the things they buy.

If they buy a new car that says it has ABS they will naturally be disappointed if the vehicle flies off the road at the merest hint of a slippery surface.

If they visit a supermarket and purchase a processed meat product, for example a lasagne that the packaging declares contains beef, they can reasonably expect it to contain just that: beef. Not horse.

Mind you, if it was advertised as being 'horse lasagne' no-one could have had any cause for complaint. True, no-one would have bought the stuff either, but at least they would have been fully aware of what it was they were avoiding.

In the case of plastics there has been much talk about additives that while making a product more user-friendly might cause problematic side-effects. I'm thinking of stuff like BPA here, obviously, but others have received questionable media attention.

The plastics industry has always been at pains to point out that the things it makes are fit for purpose and safe for use.

Like many manufacturing sectors it has also smartened its act up over the years to ensure that the ingredients of the plastics products we all take for granted present no risk to consumers.

It is a full time job communicating this sort of thing and it only takes one ill-informed article in the Daily Mail to set the industry back some considerable way.

So I was pleased to read John Osborne's report (originally for PRW's sister title European Plastics News) about getting across the message that plasticisers are not the work Beelzebub.

A worrying aspect of John's piece was that very often those trade associations and industry bodies whose job was to inform their respective members of technical developments were lagging behind social media websites.

Roger Mottram, group environmental and regulatory affairs manager at Ineos Chlor-Vinyl, wants the industry to be more proactive, more vigourous, when it comes to arguing the case for its products. I completely agree.

Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't want to see plastics industry bodies behaving like the National Rifle Association, which takes to defending its industry and gun owners with a vigour that can come across as, well, shall we say 'insensitive'?

That said, I firmly believe the plastics industry in all its forms should be more, much more, on the front foot in promoting the benefits its products offer wider society.

Communication is the key here. And the door which that key opens is right in front of you...



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