Plastic. It's a material that is in so much of what we buy and use, from clothing to our cars or the packaging our food is encased in. Since the 1800s when industrial chemistry and the Industrial Revolution led to the mass production of plastics, they have been making their way into almost every aspect of our lives. And while there are many positives to using plastic over other materials, including being able to manufacture for specific purposes and the strength of plastic, it has been well known for years that unless the world changes the way it disposes of plastic then it is going to cause many problems in years to come. Plastic degrades in the environment very slowly, meaning that it causes large amounts of waste, and plastic debris can also be harmful to wildlife that may ingest or become entangled in it.
The good news is that plastic can be recycled, and many countries and regions around the world are enacting laws and targets to try and increase the amount of plastic that is recycled and re-used. Plastic Recyclers Europe was created in 1996 to help with this task. It acts as an association for plastic recyclers across Europe, creating a network, supporting plastic recyclers and advocating for the industry. Originally with only seven members, Plastic Recyclers Europe now covers more than 80 per cent of the recycling industry and more than 115 members.
Ton Emans is President of Plastic Recyclers Europe, and is an expert in the industry with more than two and a half decades experience. This, Ton explains, is why he is confident in his ability to lead the organisation. "I have been in the recycling business for more than 25 years. Since 2000, I have been the managing director of the recycling activity, which is one of the most important reasons that I am now the president of Plastic Recyclers Europe. So I know something about plastic recycling. I started my career with DSM more than 25 years ago. In 1990, I came to a subsidiary of this big chemical factory and started up as their turnaround project manager. That was how I came into the recycling industry."
Ton says he owes a lot of his leadership style to his time in the industry, and is proud of how he is seen as a leader and industry expert. His style has changed over the years to what it is now, and Ton says he believes his visionary approach makes a real impact. "Today I am more a visionary; I believe in things and that we can make it happen. And at the beginning I was more a coach, trying to find people who would like to do it, and following them and asking them for their help."