Canadian Plastics

From The Graduate to Web TV

F or many of us that came of age in the late 1960s and after, our first real awareness of plastics derived from one particular film: The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman.

June 1, 2008   By Mark Stephen, Managing Editor - Mstephen@canplastics.Com



For many of us that came of age in the late 1960s and after, our first real awareness of plastics derived from one particular film: The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman.

In a now-famous scene, Hoffman is offered the following career advice from an older businessman: “I just want to say one word to you…plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.”

To this day, I hear people in our industry fondly quoting that line, usually to remind a listener of how long plastics have been regarded as an important and beneficial resource.

In the context of the movie, however, it’s clear the reference to plastics is ironic. A film about the 60s generation gap, The Graduate used plastics to critique the supposed superficiality of North American life. As one film reviewer put it, “to sneer at all things plastic was to offer an instant definition of oneself as among the young, hip, truth-seeking cognoscenti locked in a moral power struggle with an older generation of square, corrupt, greedy, warmongering materialists.”

It’s a little disheartening to turn on the television, some four decades later, and find a new generation of young, hip, truth seekers maintaining this same old misguided sneer. A few months ago, for example, I watched a debate on a Canadian business news program about the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), used in the production of such polycarbonate products as baby bottles. The debate pitted a pro-BPA scientist against an anti-BPA environmental activist.

The scientist, employed with the American Chemistry Council (ACC), was a likeable (older) man, and put forward a rational argument, founded on a wide variety of non-partisan research, to demonstrate BPA was not a risk to human health at the trace residual levels present in consumer products.

The (young) environmental activist, by comparison, was sarcastic, often angry, and confrontational to the point of rudeness. He rarely, if ever, allowed the scientist to finish a sentence without interrupting him, and dismissed the man’s arguments out-of-hand. Almost needless to say, he cited very few statistics to support his own views, preferring to rely on emotional rhetoric about safeguarding innocents from the alleged dangers of plastic bottles.

There’s nothing wrong with giving those with an anti-plastics agenda the opportunity to express themselves. It’s important that the industry respond, though, and we’re doing it. The ACC, among other agencies, devotes much of its time on the bisphenol A front; the Environment & Plastics Industry Council (EPIC), a division of the CPIA, is involved in lobbying against plastic bag bans; and virtually every industry magazine is editorializing in defense of plastics.

In addition to editorializing, Canadian Plastics has entered the fray through a new medium — and since film and cable television are a bit beyond our scope, we’ve turned to broadcasting on the Internet. A few weeks ago we launched CanPlastics TV, a Web show designed to examine the issues, trends, and events driving the plastics industry, and also put viewers face-to-face with today’s news-makers. New five-minute episodes are available every two weeks, on the upper right corner of our home page, www.canplastics.com.

We hope you’ll find CanPlastics TV television worth watching. We welcome your feedback and suggestions and encourage you to contact us with story ideas you’d like considered for upcoming episodes. As with our magazine, CanPlastics TV is about you, not us…because there’s still a great future in plastics.


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