Düsseldorf, Germany -- Plastics saves lives. Plastics preserve food. Plastics make people safer.
Those are some of the many examples industry advocates point to when touting plastics.
But plastics also soil the environment. And they are in the crosshairs of a growing number of people who question what role plastics should play in society.
So as tens of thousands of plastics industry advocates gather at K 2019, the question is simple.
What can, or maybe even what should, the industry do to help shine its reputation in this time of change?
Antonio Febra is president and owner of Geco (Hall 1/A11), a plastic injection mold maker in Maceira, Portugal.
Febra said the industry needs to make it clear that plastics are something to be valued, and it all starts in its own backyard.
"I try to make plastics that can be recycled in good condition and be reused again and again and again. All the parts that we make can be reused," he said. "I try to give an example not to do wrong things. I have machines to recycle plastics."
This example setting, he said, helps point others in the right direction.
Febra, who has taken up singing and painting later in life, notices the little things.
At one point as he hung out at his booth while it was being built, he said he noticed a plastic cap that had been sitting on the aisle floor nearby. Workers repeatedly walked past without picking it up.
But Febra ultimately did just that, making a simple gesture to rescue the cap from the trash. Those kinds of simple steps taken by many will show society the value of plastics, he said.
Over at the Bamberger Polymers (Hall 5/C09-5), a Jericho, N.Y.-based distributor of resins that also markets under its own brand name, folks were busy making last-minute preparations to open for the show.
Sales Manager Erik Konings sees moves by virgin resin makers to expand their portfolios to include recycled products and content will help improve the image of the industry for the general public.
"They offer these materials even at way higher prices than virgin material today," Konings said. "They are one step in front."
Bamberger International Trading Manager Carolyn DeBiase said a higher price point for recycled resin does not take care of the perception issues.
"It's really not the resin that's the issue. I mean it is at some point. But, really, it's people and how they dispose of their product," she said. "That's what's causing a lot of the ocean [problems]. ... Why are we dumping product into the ocean?"
Bamberger sales representative Joshua Latumahina said knowledge is power when it comes to plastics.
"That's the most important. You have to educate people about how they have to treat their waste," Latumahina said. "From the consumers, especially in Europe, everyone is demonstrating at the moment there is too much waste," he said. "In the end, the consumer has to [help] as well."
Pure Loop (Hall 9/B17), a unit of Erema Group, is keenly aware of the convergence of plastics, recycling and public opinion. The Ansfelden, Austria-based company makes its money recycling clean production waste with shredder-extruder technology.
"The product needs to be designed differently. It has to be designed for recyclability. No. 1. That's the biggest part," Pure Loop CEO Manfred Dobersberger said.
The plastic life cycle also has a good story to tell when it comes to the carbon footprint compared with other packaging substrates, he said. Some countries have converted their currency to plastic bills, and Dobersberger sees an extension of that as a way to show value in all plastics.
"You never see any 10-pound bill laying around on the beach because it has a value on it. And we have to see the same way [to show] plastic waste has a value on it," he said.
Most of the plastics that end up in the ocean come from sources in Asia, where solid waste management practices are lacking. Training in that part of the world is key.
Dobersberger said just 1.8 percent of ocean plastic comes from North America and Asia, so the message is clear for the most part in those parts of the world.
"We have a responsibility to teach them there is a second life out of it," the CEO said.