The major global environmental issues, in spite of their urgency, are addressed inadequately and slowly because of the lack of information and the need for international efforts to mitigate them. With regional or local environmental issues, the consumer public, industry, and the government can all play an important role in their resolution. The leadership of industry can be relied upon to provide some of the solutions, particularly in the instance where the implementation of these solutions results in cost savings or increased profits to the corporate entities. In instances where this is not the case, regulatory actions can play an important positive role in motivating industry as well as the consumer toward better environmental stewardship. The most important stakeholder, the consumer, is often left out of the decision-making process because of the technical nature of the environmental issues. Efforts at educating consumers, presenting the information in a comprehensible and timely manner, will empower them to make the necessary value judgment independently.
As with other goods or services the cost of resources and impacts associated with the plastics industry must be considered a trade-off against the societal benefits plastics deliver and any cost savings enjoyed through their use. The polymer industry has been somewhat unfairly singled out in the recent years as being disproportionately responsible for various environmental concerns of the day. Some of these claims are unfounded and not supported by data, while others appear to be reasonable. However, it is clear that the polymer industry needs to be even more environmentally sensitive in the coming years. Based on the discussion here some broad overall directions the industry may take to minimize the negative impact on the environment might be identified.
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