Having handled Plastics News
' Rising Stars special reports for the last few years, I've noticed the increasing shift of honorees emphasizing the importance of the environment, sustainability and climate change.
In our nomination form for Rising Stars, we ask about philosophies related to plastics and sustainability as well as what emerging technologies or markets excite the nominees the most.
"My philosophy is that plastics are a wicked problem, and it requires wicked solutions, and these problems are not inherently bad; it just takes large-scale change and open minds spanning generations," Evan Morton, a sustainability coordinator and PlastiVan educator with SPE, wrote in his 2022 survey.
Morton teaches the foundations of plastics and sustainability practices to students across Michigan, particularly in Detroit schools.
"I'm interested in reaching out to groups of people and having a conversation/present on plastics and the positive impacts plastics and people play in combating climate change," he said last year.
According to Pew Research Center data, 71 percent of millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) and 67 percent of generation Z (born after 1996) in the United States said the climate should be a top priority to ensure a sustainable planet for future generations, compared with 57 percent of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964).
"When I started in the industry six years ago, nobody wanted to quote or discuss 'green' products in plastic," Taylor Burnham, health care and sustainability product manager at Nexeo Plastics, said in her Rising Stars questionnaire last year. "The cost was prohibitive, nobody was seeing any interest in the consumer market at large and the technology was too scientific for anyone to care. The market today has done a complete 180 that has made me more optimistic than ever that plastic will have a place in the future."
"I've been able to learn about plastics and polymers and create alternatives such as bioplastics and composites, and with all that experience under my belt, it's time for me to impact the next generation so they can start young just like I had the opportunity to," Morton said. "All it takes is to extend a hand and for students and communities who want to enforce positive change on the perceptions of plastics."PN
wants to recognize the next generation of educators, engineers, designers, operators, scientists, marketing professionals and sustainability directors for our 10th year of Rising Stars, which will be published in the May 15 issue.
We'd like to know about your education, how you got into the industry, current challenges, views on diversity and inclusion, how your career has changed with the pandemic and more:
• Industry and public service. Are you involved in plastics associations or community organizations?
• Leadership potential. How are you showing that you have some?
• Career advancement. Are you taking on responsibility, learning skills and advancing technology?
• Diversity and inclusion. What should the plastics industry do to expand its efforts in diversity and inclusion?
• Sustainability. What is your philosophy related to plastics and sustainability? What steps have you taken to improve plastics' sustainability, whether in your work, your community or your personal life?
If you would like to nominate yourself or someone else in the industry, visit plasticsnews.com/risingstars
to fill out the survey. (If you are nominating someone else, you can have them fill out the information, or you can just fill out the information you know.) Nominees must be 35 years old or younger by the time of publication. Submissions must be received by Friday, March 24.
To read profiles on past Rising Stars honorees, visit www.plasticsnews.com/topic/rising-stars
. Jordan Vitick is the special projects editor of