There are few industries that do not utilize plastics in their products. Consumer packaging, building/construction, transportation vehicles, medical equipment, scientific instruments institutional products, furniture and furnishings, electronics, apparel, and more contain some sort of plastic or polymer. And every day almost every consumer comes in contact with a device or product that contains plastics. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency states that “in 2013, the United States generated about 14 million tons of plastics as containers and packaging, about 12 million tons as durable goods such as appliances, and almost 7 million tons as nondurable goods, such as plates and cups.”
With that amount of plastic, you need plenty of workers to produce, test, and distribute it. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes there are approximately 687,000 workers in the Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing industry, classified as those who make goods by “processing plastics materials and raw rubber.” These workers include extruding and drawing machine setters, operators, and tenders; extruding, forming, pressing, and compacting machine setters, operators, and tenders; first-line supervisors/managers of production and operating workers; materials engineers and manufacturers; inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers; molding, coremaking, and casting machine setters, operators, and tenders; packers and hand team assemblers. And here’s another plastics-related worker: the recycler. The EPA estimated that 2.8 million tons of plastics were recycled in 2012 and that number is growing.
So, to the almost 700,000 plastics employees in the United States, take a rest and enjoy the upcoming holiday. After all, that’s what Congress had in mind in 1894 when it passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. As noted by the US Department of Labor: “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
Enjoy the day with a cold beverage, in a plastic cup.