Where Are the Solidarity and a Counterstrategy?
The sessions held during the annual general meeting of the Plastics and Rubber Machinery Association within the VDMA, in mid-June in Stuttgart, Germany, were painful. And that is not even to mention the gloomy economic prospects. A major item on the agenda, and already a motto of the upcoming K 2019 in Düsseldorf, Germany, was the circular economy. But, hand in hand with this, there was the recognition of how big the gap is between economic reality and public expectations.
Never has it been so likely that the plastics industry at the trade show in October will make it onto prime time TV and the front pages of the dailies. In past years, this may well have been a reason to celebrate, but this time, following the crash in plastic’s image, there are clear worries that the industry could make a disastrous impression. Since, as the participants warned us, the organizations that touch this sore littering spot make “ruthless use” of emotionalization and the communication techniques that give them the interpretative prerogative in the public discourse.
What can the industry offer in response? Certainly, a few examples of closed loops here; a number of technical solutions there. Nuanced technical arguments, too, in many areas and increasing commitment by companies to global waste disposal and avoidance schemes, such as improvements in the collection infrastructure. But will that be enough?
At least a pavilion at the trade show, with theme days, ought to act as a wake-up call to the industry. This seems to be sorely needed, since machine manufacturers, material suppliers and plastics processors still do not exactly give an impression of solidarity – even though they must have the common goal of seeing that plastic prevails as the material of the 21st century, where it is the most suitable material, being more environmentally compatible overall.
Dr. Karlhorst Klotz
International Polymer Processing, the journal of the Polymer Processing Society, is a discussion forum for the world-wide community of engineers and scientists in the field of polymer processing.
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