Canadian Plastics

“Addicted to plastic”? Absolutely

First of all, a confession: I'm no Roger Ebert. Like most of us, I enjoy watching movies, but -- also like most of us -- don't consider myself any great shakes as a film critic. But when it comes to a new Canadian documentary that you may or...

July 1, 2009   By Mark Stephen, managing editor



First of all, a confession: I’m no Roger Ebert. Like most of us, I enjoy watching movies, but — also like most of us — don’t consider myself any great shakes as a film critic.

But when it comes to a new Canadian documentary that you may or may not have seen called Addicted to Plastic, I’m going to dip a toe into the water, if only because the movie offers a look at some of the forces that are trying to make “plastic” a dirty word.

First shown on CBC last year, the film has now landed on video store shelves. Call me oversensitive, but right away the title put me off. To describe something an addiction is to label it something that we’d be better off without — something to be kicked, in other words, like a methamphetamine habit. Would anyone call a documentary about the carpentry industry Addicted to Wood, or the housing market Addicted to Concrete? Unlikely.

Plastics are no less essential, so why the pejorative?

On that point, the description on the back of the DVD case isn’t exactly subtle: “Addicted to Plastic is a shocking and global journey to investigate what we really know about the material of a thousand uses and why there’s so darn much of it. On the way we discover a worldwide waste and toxic legacy, but also we meet the men and women dedicated to cleaning it up.”

You get the message: those reprobates creating plastics are the bad guys, the “dedicated” men and women laboring to tidy up the mess are the good guys.

Try as it might, though, that breathless prose can’t quite hide the value of plastics. Why is there “so darn much” of it? Because it does indeed have “a thousand uses”.

The “thousand uses” message is one that the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, and its EPIC environmental advocacy arm, are trying to drive home. With a streamlined staff, and new president and CEO Mark Badger at the helm, CPIA and EPIC recently launched a new PR blitz to fight the recent slew of negative publicity. (See pg. 6)

It’s a noble idea, and something we all should wish them well at, and involve ourselves in however we can — if only as “ambassadors” (as CPIA puts it) of industry goodwill.

Maybe it’s just me, but CPIA’s initiative seems to link with the recent NPE2009 event in Chicago.

Call me an incorrigible optimist, but I can’t help thinking that the summer of 2009 will go down as the point when our industry begins to turn things around, on both the PR front (witness CPIA’s initiative, and others like it) and the economic front (witness — I think — NPE2009).

While it’s still too soon to tell, we’re all hoping that NPE2009 marks the beginning of an economic recovery. Most of us have read the dry statistics by now: the preliminary total of visitor registrations by the close of the show was 44,000, and yes, that was about 30 per cent less than the corresponding number of attendees for NPE2006. But the feeling on the show floor — at least from my experiences — was that the number of serious inquiries from attendees with real buying power didn’t decline at all when compared to previous events.

It remains to be seen whether positive discussions in Chicago will be clotheslined by the hard reality of budgetary restrictions back home, but at least for one week many of the industry’s top players seemed to enjoy the feeling that exhibiting at the event would help to move their companies in a positive direction.

At the very least, the products and technologies shown at NPE2009 reaffirmed the truth lying at the heart of Addicted to Plastic — a truth the filmmakers were too predisposed against plastics to see. Why are we addicted? Because, regardless of what product you need to make your life better, plastic delivers it.

Got it? Now go tell someone.

mstephen@canplastics.com


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