We caught up with Andrew Reynolds – director at AMI and chair of the Masterbatch conference in 2019. With more than 40 years of experience in the industry, Reynolds is one of the leading experts in all things plastic.
Below, hear his take on the trends that are shaping the field, and get a peek at the 2020 Polyethelene Conference in February. You can also listen to the full interview below.
Q: Can you tell us about yourself?
A: I’m Andrew Reynolds; I’m a director at AMI. We’re the leading plastic consultants on downstream markets and what’s going on within them. I’ve spent the last 40 years of my life looking at packaging and where it’s grown, developed, good things and challenges, and what the future holds.
Q: The Global Plastics Industry Seminar series just wrapped up. Tell us about some of the key takeaways from this year.
It’s a 360-degree review of what’s happening in the world of plastics, region by region, polymer by polymer, end-use segment by end-use segment, around the world.
It’s a kind of forum where we discuss two or three things: One, the big-picture numbers of where the industry is and where it’s going, but also a more personal, softer side of the industry and what’s happening to the demand for plastics and packaging from the end-users.
I think the big thing is, clearly, the debate about the environment and the role of plastics in the world. There’s a head of steam criticizing plastics in terms of the way they end up in the environment, particularly in things like ocean waste, but there are wider concerns.
We live in what I would call the era of casual convenience. So what’s tended to happen in terms of the societies we live in and the packaging we use is we’ve been driven by convenience – what makes our life easy? The eat-and-go fast food world that we live in, the world of Starbucks that we live in, has all been driven by that casual convenience.
One of the things I see is a real difference in the way the US market is working versus the way the European market is working. In the U.S., the drivers that are there are coming from consumers.
I think in an area like Europe, a lot of debate is being driven by the government. I think in the U.S. the consumer is driving that conversation, and it’s probably a smaller proportion of consumers because it’s perceived as less of a problem. There are plenty of problems in our world, and quite naturally for a lot of consumers, plastic packaging isn’t one of them.
Related: Four packaging trends to watch >>
Q: Looking ahead to the AMI Polyethylene Conference in 2020, what do you anticipate to be some of the big topics?
On a material point of view, the amazing thing about the industry is the amount of innovation still going on – in resins, additives, processing, converting – all of which enhances the products. That’s certainly going to be key among the topics.
But I think another thing that we’re going to be talking about is the structure of the industry. The way the industry is changing and consolidating, companies specializing even more in what they do, pushing out the geographical and application boundaries. And all this is serving to change the industry and shape the industry.
All of those topics – it’s kind of, again, a holistic view of where the industry is going, not only the technical issues, but the commercial and market issues that will move the industry forward in the next 10 years or so.
Q: What are some of the reasons to attend?
I think the key thing for me – and this is true for all industries, and it’s one of the things the conference does – is dialogue is so important. The ability to talk with your suppliers, your customers, and understand what’s going on. You have a clarity of vision as an industry, and how should the industry react to the consolidation, the demand from society, customers, politicians, to change, to sustainability.
But some of it is also about the industry to have a forum and get together, and say, “We have a good product.” The only job we do badly is telling the world what we are doing.
People tend to go away really refreshed with new vigor, and evangelize and support what the industry’s doing. There’s an enormous contribution the packaging products made by the attendees make to the society in which we live.
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