On 7 July 2020, at a briefing of Congress entitled “Plastic Production, Pollution and Waste in the Time of Covid-19: The Life-Threatening Impact of Single Use Plastic on Human Health,” Plastics Industry Association President & CEO Tony Radoszewski refuted attacks on a material and industry that have played a critical role in the U.S. response to the novel coronavirus.
“The idea that single-use plastic medical products… are ‘life-threatening’ contradicts the advice of this Subcommittee, which recently urged the President to use all his power to increase production and distribution of ‘masks, face shields, surgical gowns, isolation gowns, goggles, disposable caps, disposable shoe covers, and disposable gloves,’” Radoszewski told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment.
The only witness invited to highlight the importance of plastics in healthcare, Radoszewski expressed his appreciation to Ranking Member Fred Keller (R-PA) for giving him the opportunity to describe the plastic industry’s effort to meet unprecedented demand for personal protection equipment (PPE), as well as components for ventilators and other medical devices. As COVID-19 began to spread, the federal government and states designated plastics companies and their employees as essential businesses and workers. Congressman Keller noted, “As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in the United States, one thing became abundantly clear, the frontline workers of America would need access to personal protective equipment at a rate never seen before. The plastics industry kicked their production of these life-saving products into high gear.”
“Plastic is one of the most advanced and useful materials humanity ever created, contributing to longer, healthier lives for people across the globe. Without it, disease and hunger would be more common, not less,” said Radoszewski, underscoring the conflict between environmental groups seeking to ban hygienic single-use items and public health officials recommending them to help Americans protect themselves.
An Associated Press report recently warned the PPE supply in the U.S. “is running low again as the virus resumes its rapid spread and the number of hospitalized patients climbs,” putting frontline healthcare workers at greater risk, according to National Nurses United.
Addressing environmental concerns, Radoszewski explained, “All materials require energy and other resources in their manufacture, and all produce waste. However, over its entire lifecycle in most applications, plastic requires less energy and conserves more resources than glass, paper or aluminum, saving fuel, energy and money, especially for busy working families.” He added that jobs and economic growth are also health issues. “I’m proud to represent nearly one-million plastic employees in the United States. Our industry contributes hundreds of billions of dollars of economic value and good tax-paying jobs,” he said.
The Plastics Industry Association supports the Recover Act, which would modernize U.S. recycling infrastructure for the 21st Century, preventing plastics from entering the environment and providing plastics companies with recycled materials to create new products.