For the first time, Plastics News is turning a spotlight on plastics professionals under the age of 40 who are on the path to becoming the industry's next leaders. Today and Wednesday, we will profile 10 of these "Rising Stars."
35, Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
Title: Recycling and diversion director
Location: Washington, D.C., and the Portland, Ore., home office
Twitter handle: @kholmesrecycles
Birthplace: Columbia, Mo.
Education: Master’s degree in urban studies, Portland State University, 2007; bachelor’s degrees in history and anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park, 1999.
Career highlights: SPI recycling and diversion director, March 2013 to present; commercial marketing manager, North American recycle portfolio for Sabic Innovative Plastics, 2011-12; owner and principal consultant, 4R Sustainability Inc., October 2008 to October 2011, and December 2012 to September 2013; executive editor, Resource Recycling, 2003-08; technical assistance specialist, Community Environmental Services at Portland State University, 2002-03.
Q: Tell us about your family.
Holmes: Married for 13 years, two boys, ages 5 and 8.
Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?
Holmes: At Community Environmental Services, we would conduct waste audits, create strategies to maximize diversion of all recyclables, and then implement recycling programs to reduce landfill-bound waste. We were often able to identify previously unrealized opportunities for plastics. This is when I first began to understand how dynamic plastics are, and where the opportunities and challenges lie in expanding recovery for plastic products.
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Holmes: To date, finally achieving work/life balance! As a mom with two young kids, this is huge and something I’ve struggled with. On a professional level, I’d have to say my greatest achievement to date has been helping to get the newly formed SPI Recycling Committee off the ground.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Holmes: One is the limitations of the collection system that we are beginning to realize. For example, material recovery facilities are not well-equipped to handle many forms of plastic outside of a 3-D, rigid container. We obviously have much bigger goals.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Holmes: I believe we are on the cusp of seeing the integration of conversion technologies (like gasification and pyrolysis) into the materials-management framework. I also expect developments in separation technology.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Holmes: As I work more closely with the prime plastics industry, I have been surprised by the genuine commitment to improve the situation for end-of-life plastics.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Holmes: Plastic isn’t always perceived in the best light. When I tell people what I do, I often get raised eyebrows, particularly from people in my generation. Then I explain what I do, and all of the environmental benefits about the material. I’ve changed the perception of many people in my life about plastics and the industry, for the better. Do not let the misinformation and lack of understanding about the material deter you.