Washington — The Plastics Industry Association named Tony Radoszewski, the president of the Plastics Pipe Institute, as its new president and CEO 31 July.
Radoszewski, who takes over the job 16 Sept, succeeds long-time CEO Bill Carteaux, who led the group from 2005 until late 2018, when he died after a three-year fight with leukaemia.
Radoszewski comes to the Washington-based plastics association with nearly 40 years in the industry, including as president of PPI since 2006. He takes over at a time when the group and the industry face major challenges around plastic waste and pollution issues.
Wylie Royce, chairman of the plastics association, said the group liked that Radoszewski brings a long history working directly for plastics companies as well as trade association leadership.
In his time at the Irving, Texas-based PPI, he increased membership 60 percent and improved the financial situation for the group, Royce said.
"Here's a guy that's got 25 years of industry experience and then he's got another 13 years of running PPI," Royce said. "He's got amazing passion for the industry. His energy is just through the roof."
Radoszewski started as a polyolefins sales representative with Phillips Chemical Co. back in 1980 and had steadily advancing roles in the resin and pipe sectors.
He joined Advanced Drainage Systems Inc., the world's largest maker of plastic drainage pipe, in 1995 as director of marketing and business development.
"I am grateful for this opportunity to lead such an important and respected organisation," Radoszewski said. "While I have decades of experience in the plastics industry, I know as I step in to lead the great ... organisation that I have much to learn and I am dedicated to listening to members as a top priority and understanding the opportunities and challenges we have."
Royce, who is the director of additives maker Royce Global, said the association deeply appreciated interim president and CEO Patty Long, who led the group after Carteaux's death.
Politically, it's a challenging time for the association, which is one of the larger trade groups in a very fragmented industry.
Laws such as plastic bag and expanded polystyrene foam packaging bans were adopted by several state governments this year and are gaining steam largely in Democratic-leaning state legislatures.
As well, in a specific loss for the association that's been widely covered in mainstream media sources including CNN, Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. both recently said they are leaving the group after Greenpeace and other environmentalist groups pressured the two companies to end their financial support.
"He's a little bit of a warrior and we're going to need that," Royce said. "We're fighting a lot of beachheads, but I really think he's up for the challenge."
In a phone interview with Plastics News, Radoszewski said trying to work with environmental groups and other nongovernmental organisations could be a key part of that advocacy work.
"I'm willing to go out and see if the folks at Greenpeace are willing to talk," Radoszewski said. "Working with NGOs is going to be a high priority, and finding common ground will be a key priority.
"At the end of the day, we still have a great story to tell," he said.
He said his first priority will be to go on an industry "listening tour" and make sure he understands where members want the association to go. He said a strong focus on member companies allowed PPI to expand its membership from 110 to 175 companies in his time there.
Royce said that Radoszewski's background of growing PPI was a plus in hiring him, as was his advocacy work convincing city and state governments to expand the allowable uses of plastic pipe.
Royce said that skill set of persuading local governments could have parallels in the environmental arena.
"In the news, we know what we're facing and he's not one to back down," Royce said. "He's really one to find a way to collaborate and find a way to work with people and do it from a position of strength."
"I think the possibility of saying to Greenpeace and people like that, you know what, we all are really looking to get the same goal — we don't want waste, we don't want it in the ocean," Royce said. "There are different ways to get there and let's try to work together and make this happen faster."
"If we can start to take baby steps in the right direction, let's just start taking those steps," Royce said. "Anything is better than bans."
Royce said Radoszewski was the unanimous choice of both the selection committee and the association's 31-member board.
While there are many environmental issues confronting the industry, Radoszewski will come in as the association is benefiting from a fairly solid economic picture for the industry.
Last year's NPE show, which is owned by the association and generates a big chunk of its budget, had the most exhibitors in the show's history, according to the group. It attracted nearly 2,200 exhibiting companies and is the largest plastics show in North America.
Maintaining the health of that show, which is held every three years and puts money in the bank that the group draws from in non-NPE years, is a key priority for the association, which was known as the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. until 2016.
The group's board in February identified several priorities, including developing and promoting its new "This Is Plastics" outreach initiative, designed to provide industry employees with information about the industry to serve as ambassadors and help "dispel negative myths."
The board also highlighted supporting programs around industry sustainability and promoting employment and educational opportunities in the industry as priorities.
Many prominent plastics companies are members of the association, but many others, particularly smaller firms, are not in the group. Sometimes they join smaller, regional trade associations.
Other trade groups, like the American Chemistry Council's plastics division, also have their roles representing specific segments. ACC, which is a bigger organisation with a larger presence in state capitols, often takes a higher profile on environmental policy issues.
The Plastics Industry Association, however, is the largest and most prominent association that represents all parts of the plastics sector in Washington.
That diversity of membership — processors, machinery and mould making firms, and materials suppliers — sometimes makes it hard to balance competing interests on policy.
The group has largely stayed on the sidelines of the China trade debates, for example, because of differences of opinion between those sectors.
But it's been very active in supporting the new trade pact between Canada, Mexico and the United States because the trade picture within the NAFTA region is generally favorable for all segments of the industry.
While the industry employs about 1 million people in the United States, that fragmented structure gives it a lower profile in Washington than other business groups, like the auto industry or tech companies.
Federal tax forms filed by the association as part of its nonprofit status suggest the NPE trade show provides a sizable portion of its revenues.
An association spokesperson said annual revenues average about $22m (€20m) but fluctuate based on NPE.
The group did not respond to detailed questions about its finances. But the federal tax forms suggest it may have collected about $30m (€27m) from the 2018 NPE show.
Spread over three years, that suggests the association gets about $10m (€9m) a year from events, mostly NPE, with about $9m coming in each year from dues and assessments from member companies.
Salary details for Radoszewski in his new position were not available. In 2017, Carteaux's base salary was $479,000 (€432,000), with retirement and other benefits pushing his total compensation to $502,000 (€452,800), according to the tax forms.
Radoszewski’s PPI salary was $266,000 (€240,000) in 2016, which is the most recent year available.
One of Radoszewski's first tasks will be filling a senior leadership post in the association. Scott DeFife, the group's vice president of government affairs, left 29 July to become CEO of the Glass Packaging Institute in Arlington, Virginia, beginning 19 Aug.