Actress Stefanie Powers currently is traveling the Midwest to perform in a stage production of "The King and I," but a stop she made Monday in Petoskey had a business and environmental, rather than theatrical, focus.
While en route from a performance in Milwaukee to two more in Flint, Powers visited Petoskey Plastics' plant on U.S. 31 South to learn more about the company's use of plastic recycling in the creation of many of its product lines.
Along with acting credits such as the television series "Hart to Hart" and "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.," Powers' background also includes more than three decades of involvement in wildlife conservation and environmental advocacy in Africa.
Having noted a litter problem involving plastic bags around that continent, Powers is exploring whether recycling of plastics to create new products would present viable business opportunities - and a chance to boost people's living standard - in developing countries.
Powers has cooperated with Ford Motor Co. on various environmental pursuits. Staff from the Dearborn-based automaker - which purchases products such as protective plastic seatcovers from Petoskey Plastics - arranged Powers' visit Monday.
"She's taken the opportunity to visit Petoskey Plastics knowing how much they've done for Ford and the environment," said Andrew Acho, Ford's worldwide director for environmental outreach and strategy who accompanied Powers to the plant.
In 2004, Petoskey Plastics supplied Ford with 2.6 million pounds of plastic products which contain a minimum of 25 percent recycled material.
After a plant tour and discussion, Powers and Petoskey Plastics officials agreed that there's more exploration to be done as to whether plastic recycling enterprises would be a workable option in the developing world.
Petoskey Plastics general manager Jim Eklund said he expects his company will have additional dialogue with Powers and those working with her on such issues.
"It sounds like they want to leverage some of our expertise in solving some of these problems in Africa," he said.
Powers said she found encouragement in Petoskey Plastics' reuse of plastic wastes in the production process.
"It gives hope to all of us who are working in conservation and environmental protection," she said.