Plastics Industry Association puts the spotlight on sustainability

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Photo by Plastics Industry Association Kim Holmes

Kim Holmes, formerly senior director or recycling and diversion, is now vice president of sustainability for the organization. And she's now being joined by Ashley Hood-Morley as director of sustainability.

The move comes as the association looks to make a greater sustainability impact throughout the plastics lifecycle and not just at the end of life for products, Holmes said during a recent interview.

The decision to beef up efforts regarding sustainability comes from direction by association Chairman Jim Murphy, president and CEO of Davis Standard LLC, Holmes said.

Along with increasing the staff associated with sustainability from one to two, the group also reorganized its approach to the issue and created a Sustainability Advisory Board aimed to cut across all segments of group membership.

With participants on the advisory board from across the industry, Holmes said, members will be able to report back to their respective segments about sustainability efforts.

"Every group is kept up to speed on what the priorities are, the direction of the sustainability activity for the organization," she said.

"My hope for the group is that through their work we can continue to elevate the importance of sustainability for our industry and our members and provide the right tools and resources to accelerate their own work in achieving their own sustainability goals," Holmes said at the recent Re|focus Sustainability & Recycling Summit in Orlando.

Sustainability, association CEO Bill Carteaux said at Re|focus, "really cuts cross the entire organization" and is "really part of our fabric."

Participation in association activities typically requires membership in the group. But the association is opening up participation in sustainability work beyond those ranks.

"We have taken an opposite approach," Holmes said. "We actually said we want anyone who is interested to join this effort because success is critical and we want people's involvement and ideas. And that only yields a better output for the project."

Allowing non-members to participate actually has led to new members joining the association.

Photo by Plastics Industry Association Ashley Hood-Morley

"It's the concept of why would you shut out anybody who wants to be part of this?" Hood-Morley said. "We're all going after the same goals for the good of the industry."

Hood-Morley, with a degree in chemical engineering, brings organizational skills to the sustainability effort as the two women look to expand the importance of sustainability within their organization."

"I was kind of working siloed and the objective of all of this is to un-silo it," Holmes said.

"Kim is definitely the dreamer, the creative thinker, the one who has been in the recycling trenches for years. I still have a ton to learn. I'm the engineer. I can say, 'How do we put that to paper?'" Hood-Morley said.

Even changing Holmes' title to include the word "sustainability" instead of "recycling" is a significant step, allowing the group to broaden its focus.

"End-of-life is a very important piece of all of this for our industry, especially because it's the piece that I think consumers pay most attention to. But if you look at the lifecycle impact of our products in our industry, there are many other areas where we can create huge environmental benefits that can be greater than just the end-of-life piece," Holmes said.

Holmes and Morley said a key focus for their office in the coming year is identifying plastic recycling markets to help divert materials form disposal.

"We think there's a lot of people out there who could be using recycled content who just haven't considered it. The process of beginning to evaluate recycled content, that's daunting. So what we want to do is eliminate those first couple of barriers of finding a supply and analyzing a supply," she said.

Doing the legwork on the front end — essentially proving different types of plastics can and should be recycled — will help the markets take over and start using the material. The association already is doing such work in both the automotive and film sectors.


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