crushed plastic bottles heap

Like many industries, plastics manufacturing has had to evolve and adapt over the years as new trends and challenges emerge.

In the plastics manufacturing industry, the biggest obstacle of late is how to manage plastic waste and lessen its impact on the environment. In the past year, the public has become more aware of the growing waste problem and is demanding change.

“It’s definitely a topic the industry cares about,” said Wes Ashworth, senior search consultant at Lee Group Search.

In fact, the Plastics Industry Association has encouraged all companies engaged in plastics manufacturing to make sustainability a guiding principle at all levels of operation.

Ashworth places dozens of professionals in jobs at plastics manufacturing facilities across the country each year.

He is often tasked with finding candidates to fill engineering, operations, and leadership roles.

Lately, he’s seen new positions arise as the plastics manufacturing industry works to create new technology and sustainability programs that will combat the growing waste problem.

“I’ve seen a rise in quality assurance and environmental health and safety positions that have come up in the past two years,” Ashworth said. “We’re also seeing new process engineering positions that deal with chemical formulation and how to create new materials and recyclables.”

The Plastics Industry Association has said that it is committed to meeting new environmental and recycling goals and as a result have implemented several programs and initiatives, including:

  • Zero Net Waste program— This program offers companies tools to eliminate waste from their facilities and recognizes those that have committed to maximizing diversion.
  • Bioplastics— Companies are developing new bioplastics, either traditionally derived or built from renewable resources.
  • Sustainability initiatives— The Plastics Industry Association has undertaken a coordinated effort to unlock new recovery and recycling opportunities for a range of materials, including health-care products, vehicles and forms of flexible packaging and products.
  • Marine debris and sustainable product management— The Association supports the growth of recycling in the U.S. by funding The Recycling Partnership and wants to close the loop on materials that should not be entering waterways and oceans.

As more plastics manufacturing plants embrace these sustainability initiatives, they make themselves more marketable to a generation of engineers and leaders who value “green” philosophies.

These new positions are appealing to applicants, especially young engineers, said Ashworth.

“From a candidate perspective, it’s something they really care about,” he said. “They see a company that is committed to sustainability, and they want to work there.”

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Lee Group Newport News office. Wes Ashworth.