Monday, July 25th, 2016

Summer Excursion: Members Tour EREMA, UMass Lowell and Learn About Recycling and Plastics Engineering

The plastics industry continues to find innovative ways to create products that are environmentally friendly without compromising the needs of consumers. In a world where recycling is a learned-behavior, along the way there has been urban legend that foam cups – popular in many an office and college party – are not recyclable. SPI recently held a tour of EREMA Plastic Recycling Systems in Ipswich, MA where members learned first-hand about how to turn foam materials into plastic pellets.

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These foam chips are turned into plastic pellets.

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Here are the plastic pellets being created.

 

“It seemed like a good opportunity to promote recycling of materials that aren’t typically recycled. If you use the right equipment, it can be done efficiently and you can make a good product,” said Mike Horrocks, CEO, EREMA North America, Inc.

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Ing. Clemens Kitzberger, business development manager at EREMA Group GmbH, Austria and Mike Horrocks, CEO at EREMA North America, Inc.

 

After touring EREMA, members drove over to UMass Lowell, one of our nation’s only schools dedicated to plastics engineering. The school offers cutting-edge lab research opportunities and internship opportunities with some of the nation’s leading manufacturers and corporations.

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Thursday, July 14th, 2016

The FLiP Files: Katie Masterson

The FLiP Files is a blog series spotlighting young professionals that are active in SPI’s Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), a group for plastics professionals under the age of 40.  For our fifth entry, we spoke to FLiP member Katie Masterson of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association

head shot.7.22.15-Where do you work and what’s your title?

SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, Senior Program Manager Industry Affairs – Equipment Council

-Tell us a little about what your company does.

SPI represents and advocates for the full supply chain of the plastics industry. We help members be more successful in their businesses. We provide programs, education and conferences and councils and committees that bring the full supply chain together to solve industry issues.

-How did you find yourself working in the plastics industry?

When I graduated, I was interested in working in the DC area for a smaller company or a non-profit and was getting a lot of leads with associations (There are a lot of associations in the DC area!). I started my career at the American Society of Interior Designers where I worked on continuing education, specifically in the online learning environment. I was ready for a new challenge and joined SPI in 2012. I saw SPI as a good next step in diversifying my association management skills and knew I would be surrounded by peers I could learn and grow from.
Some of the programs I manage are the Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES), and the Safety Standards and Awards Program (SSA). I also assist with other Equipment Council activities, such as the Machinery Safety Standards Committee and the Equipment and Moldmakers Leadership Summit. I manage, along with other young professionals on SPI’s staff, the Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) group.

-Has anyone in the industry mentored you?

I was fortunate to work with Jackie Dalzell when I first started at SPI, who was always willing to share her knowledge and passion for the industry with me. Although she has since moved on , she still is a great mentor and friend.

I also have to note my Equipment Council and CES leadership, as they are always willing to answer my questions and help foster my knowledge of the industry. They are a wealth of knowledge with their tenure in the industry. I’m lucky to work for such a group.

-Describe in one sentence what you do on an average day.

My typical day varies, but can consist of CES report follow-up, reporting definition discussions, committee and subcommittee calls and web meetings, reviewing economic reports, program management planning for SSA or FLiP, meeting prep, writing update reports for committees, etc.

One thing I love about my job is when an issue arises that members would like us to address, we must look at the problem and come up with a plan to help address it. So it’s a lot of problem solving with no instruction manual, which I love.

-What do you like most about working in the plastics industry?

It’s an industry filled with enthusiastic people who are passionate about what they do. It’s a privilege to work for such a group and hard not to catch the passion.

-What’s one thing about your personal life that you feel has been changed by having a career in plastics?

I’ve become an advocate for plastics. If a peer or friend says something un-factual about plastics, like “don’t buy that one because it’s plastic, get the glass bottle because it’s more ‘green,’” I know how to productively counteract that comment with facts like “well plastics are recyclable and it took less energy to ship this plastic bottle to this location,” etc. People can easily be reminded that plastics are needed in many facets of our everyday lives and bring a lot of good.

-What are the major challenges you think are facing the plastics industry today? How do you think the industry can overcome them?

As of 2015 millennials are the largest generation in the workforce and will be taking over baby boomers’ positions and leadership roles as the baby boomers retire. I think ensuring that my generation is prepared for this transition is a challenge the industry is facing. FLiP’s Mentorship Program and more internal succession planning at plastics companies will help ease this transition. The transition to a largely millennial workforce is coming quickly and I am sure my generation is ready for the challenge, but we know we need our predecessors’ guidance to help ensure our success and the success of the industry.

-Why do you think someone from your generation should consider a career in plastics?

Because there are a lot of opportunities. I was at Wittmann Battenfeld USA for Manufacturing Day 2015 and their President, Dave Preusse, highlighted to the students that there were over 30 different job types at their facility from marketing, to accounting, to engineers and technicians. I think that’s a great point. It’s rare that people know exactly what they want to do for a career, but if they know about  opportunities the plastics industry has to offer, they may consider it down the line.

-What’s one plastic product you couldn’t live without?

My contact lenses. I love my glasses too, but it’s crazy that a curved piece of plastic you place on your eye can make the world beautiful and crisp.

Friday, July 8th, 2016

Plastics Champions Take On Capitol Hill

On June 22, 2016, members of the plastics industry met with lawmakers during the 2016 Plastics Industry Fly-In, an event that gives professionals the opportunity to talk about important issues impacting plastics with our nation’s lawmakers. Nine plastics industry trade associations invited their members to come out and storm the Hill to have their voices heard. At the 2016 Plastics Industry Fly-In, first-time attendees began building relationships with members of Congress and their staffers, while returning participants were able to discuss progress and address new challenges.

This year’s Fly-In kicked off with an evening reception, followed by a briefing the next day featuring plastics industry experts who spoke about key issues that attendees would be bringing to the attention of lawmakers on the Hill later that day, including trade, tax and labor issues.

Equipped with the latest updates on the industry’s most pressing issues, the Plastics Champions left for their Hill meetings – but not before capturing a group picture in front of the U.S. Capitol.

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The 2016 Plastics Industry Fly-In Attendees on the steps of the Capitol.

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            From left to right: SPI’s Katie Masterson and Kiran Mand, Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), and Jarden Plastics’ Jessica Bursack.

Plastics Champions participated in a total of 99 SPI-arranged Hill meetings with members of Congress and/or their staff. Key industry recommendations included:

  • Passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership which offers important growth opportunities for the plastics industry.
  • Blocking the Department of Labor and National Labor Relations Board from enforcing new rules and standards intended to curb employer and employee flexibility and rights.
  • Moving corporate tax reform that allows for business certainty and encourages investment.
  • Supporting energy policy that encourages prudent development and utilization of domestic natural resources.
  • Using Congressional oversight authority to increase transparency and adherence to sound science and risk-based decisions in regulatory agency rulemaking.
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Fly-In Attendee Monica Filyaw of PolyQuest with Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC).

When their meetings concluded, the Plastics Champions headed from the Hill to an evening reception for a chance to network with fellow members of the plastics industry and members of Congress.

SPI members left D.C. with the tools and connections necessary to follow up with Congressional offices to supply additional information on pressing issues, schedule plant tours with elected officials in their home states and continue an ongoing. The meetings are just a starting point for what SPI hopes will be fruitful, continued relationships.

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

SPI Participates in Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s Study on the Availability of Recycling Programs Nationwide

People Holding Recycling Symbol and ConceptsSPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association is one of several organizations which funded a newly-released study organized by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), 2015-16 Centralized Study on Availability of Recycling. The report examines the prevalence of consumer recycling programs across the United States and the roughly 50 types of packaging in those programs. Researchers evaluated recycling programs through public-facing program information from over 2,000 communities varying in size across the country.

The findings showed that 93 percent of U.S. residents living in communities with a population over 125,000 have recycling programs available to them. Other key findings include:

  • A majority of residents (73 percent) had curbside recycling, which can be further broken down to:
    • Automatic/Universal programs which are automatically provided to residents (53 percent)
    • Subscription programs which require resident subscription to participate, and often include fees(14 percent)
    • Opt-in programs which require residents to sign up to receive a recycling container or regular collection services (6 percent)
  • While 64 percent of the population had multiple options including drop off programs available, 21 percent of the population researched had only drop off programs

The significance of the study goes beyond the findings; it marks the beginning of more collaborative efforts and serves as the foundation for recycling growth by providing a baseline against which future studies can measure progress. This study also represents the confluence of multiple perspectives coming together to not only examine the past, but to determine what best practices to adopt and implement for the future.

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

How Will the Brexit Impact the U.S. Plastics Industry?

Brexit concept jigsaw puzzleBy Michael Taylor, Vice President, International Affairs and Trade, SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association

The vote by 52 percent of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union—the so-called British exit (Brexit)—has sent shockwaves across global financial markets and ushered in a period of uncertainty for manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic. The vote could further undermine growth within Europe and potentially around the globe. Given the size of the U.S. economic relationship with Europe, the U.K. decision may have significant ramifications for the American plastics industry.

The U.S. commercial relationship with the U.K. and EU combined is the U.S.’ largest in the world, representing about 40 percent of the global economy. Trade of U.S.–EU manufactured goods reached $836 billion in 2015, and cross-border investment equaled more than $5 trillion. Many U.S. companies with EU operations have headquarters in London, and about 17 percent of U.S.-manufactured exports to the EU are destined for the U.K.

The U.K. is the 9th largest export market for the U.S. plastics industry representing more than $1.3 billion dollars in goods in 2015, and our 8th largest import market with more than $249 million dollars in goods in 2015. While the day-to-day operations of businesses in the United Kingdom, European Union or the United States may not be directly impacted by the Brexit immediately, all businesses engaged in the transatlantic market should prepare for the changes that are inevitably coming.

It’s expected that what the Brexit means for manufacturers in the United States and their partners in Europe won’t be fully known for years. Soon the United Kingdom will begin negotiations with the EU under Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union to set the terms of its withdrawal, a negotiation which some expect may take two years or more. Until the U.K. officially withdraws from the EU, it should be treated as an EU member state in trade for purposes of tariffs and other technical matters. Eventually, however, our trading relationship with the UK will experience increased costs and red tape after they have completely withdrawn from the EU. For U.K. manufacturers exporting into the EU, EU standards and regulations are expected to continue to apply for those goods to be eligible for sale, but much as they would normally apply to U.S. exports, rather than to exports from EU member companies.

Big Ben and Union Jack flag in England

Regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a major trade treaty currently being negotiated, it is clear that the Brexit vote will be a drag on the progress of the deliberations. Prior to the vote, it was apparent that the differences separating the United States and EU in the TTIP talks were larger than the areas of shared objectives and perspectives. With the U.K. and EU now preparing to enter into a multi-year withdrawal negotiation, there are serious questions as to whether the TTIP talks can result in a truly meaningful and comprehensive agreement or even any deal at all. In addition, the loss of the UK voice within the EU will likely make it even more difficult for a deal to be struck. On a positive note, there is the possibility of a U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement, but this opportunity would still be years away at this point, and only be a fraction of the size of an ideal TTIP agreement with the entire EU.

All this said, although it is a significant event with notable economic consequences, the Brexit vote is unlikely to usher in a recession. It is very clear that all of the key players stand ready to intervene in the financial markets vigorously to buoy their economies as required. Specifically, in the U.S., the Federal Reserve will likely cut interest rates as opposed to raising them, counterbalancing any negative investment consequences the Brexit might have in the near-term for U.S. stakeholders.

But the causal relationship between political and economic uncertainty and negative market and trade consequences is well established. The Brexit will most likely have impacts akin to past Eurozone crises, at least in the short term. It will shake financial markets and consumer confidence, cause a majority of business decision-makers to hedge and serve as an unwelcome drag on economic growth and demand.