Getting back to business in 2021
by Craig Saunders
IAPD President

s this challenging and difficult year ends, 2021 holds the promise of a vaccine for COVID-19 and, with it, the anticipation of returning to a more normal way of life. While the “new normal” may look different from our pre-pandemic lives, I’m optimistic that we will be able to refocus our attention on picking up where we left off.

Environmental sustainability

When I first addressed IAPD members as your IAPD President, I shared several observations. I had just attended the K-Fair and noticed a stronger-than-ever focus on environmental sustainability and the circular economy among the exhibitors. Since European trends have a way of influencing business in North America, I was convinced that environmental sustainability would soon have to be a priority for IAPD members.

The importance of demonstrating the environmental sustainability of performance plastics will be even more critical as a result of the 2020 presidential elections in the United States. The new administration has indicated that it will prioritize climate change in many ways, including reversing the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. The Government Relations and Environmental Committees’ work will become even more important in the near future, as the new administration will want facts and data to support our claims about the environmental advantages of performance plastics.

Craig Saunders headshot

Read IAPD CEO Susan Avery’s article on the next page to find out more about the new Sustainability Champions initiative, which is designed to give IAPD members the resources we need to promote the sustainability of performance plastics. This will help you appeal to your more eco-conscious customers, plus give you plenty of reasons to sell the benefits of performance plastics for applications that have always been created with traditional materials. In addition, it’s a great selling point when you’re trying to hire college graduates, who have probably grown up hearing a very one-sided (that is, negative) view of plastics. Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, we need these data-based resources when we talk to Members of Congress.

In the United States, plastics could be affected by increased legislation. However, we have a tremendous opportunity to educate legislators about performance plastics. Together, as an organization, distributors and manufacturers can continue to position performance plastics as part of the sustainability solution with light weighting in transportation, infrastructure solutions and recyclability.

In theory, the materials we produce and sell are highly recyclable; however, the issue has been in “closing the loop.” That is, recovering and returning the end-of-life plastics back to where they can be recycled and repurposed. The primary issue has been and continues to be in the logistics. As there continues to be increasing market-driven demand for sustainable, recycled plastics starting with consumer products and moving to performance plastics, we must be prepared for the inevitable. I am confident that, as an industry, we can meet these challenges head-on and develop efficient and profitable solutions for reclaiming and recycling materials that can benefit everyone in the supply chain.

Stronger by association

Another theme I shared in my first address as IAPD President was just how much more effective we are as an industry when we work together with our “IAPD hats” on, rather than multiple companies trying to accomplish the same objectives on their own. We have an impressive brain trust to tap into, and I’ve seen even the most complicated problems successfully tackled when we get the right people from throughout the IAPD membership in the same room. If you want to be part of an industry-wide solution, I suggest you get involved with IAPD immediately. IAPD staff can help you find the perfect fit for your expertise, whether it’s on a short-term project basis or a longer-term standing committee.

As we go into the new year, I challenge each and every one of you to think about how you can help make this industry stronger, raise awareness of the benefits of performance plastics and contribute your talents to the common good. If you have an engineering background and a knowledge of the sustainability benefits of performance plastics, I encourage you to reach out to IAPD staff about the exciting work that the Environmental Committee is about to embark upon. If you want to know more about talking to your Members of Congress about issues important to you, staff can help you fine-tune your advocacy skills. These are just some of the many opportunities available to you. Your involvement in IAPD can help you strengthen your connections with colleagues, contribute to your professional development and be a rewarding experience as you become part of the solution to the issues facing the performance plastics industry.

Happy New Year

We’ve all done our best this year to get through the pandemic, but soon it will be time to get off the sidelines and into the game. Let’s make sure that 2021 is a happy, healthy, prosperous and successful year for us all. I look forward to seeing you at an IAPD event in the coming year.