Emily Tipaldo is an advocate for responsible plastic solutions.
Recently named a “Rising Star” in Plastics News, Emily leads the Plastics Division’s Packaging Team, representing major U.S. resin suppliers. She is an advocate for policies and value chain initiatives that recognize plastic packaging and plastic products as valuable resources. Emily leads the Packaging Team in the quest for sustainable solutions for creating and recovering plastics, keeping molecules in play and preventing marine debris. She also manages the Materials Recovery for the Future flexible plastic packaging recycling research program.
The Edison Awards recently spoke with Tipaldo about her interest in technology, what it’s like to be a woman in her field, and her greatest achievements thus far. Here’s what she had to say: (edited for brevity and clarity)
When did your interest in science or engineering begin?
I’ve always been curious and love the outdoors. However, for a long time I did not have a healthy relationship with science or engineering as a discipline. As a child, science meant a dry class in school, not a greater understanding of everyday items and environments around me. I took science for granted and struggled. My true appreciation for science didn’t happen until adulthood. Upon completion of my graduate degree, I planned to develop a career in international policy but was side-tracked when the economy came to a halt in 2008. Following a stint as a paralegal, working for the U.S. Treasury Department, I was fortunate to land a job at the American Chemistry Council. Over the last eight years I’ve reacquainted with chemistry and learned a great deal regarding biochemistry, polymers, risk evaluation, toxicology, epidemiology, and industrial design.
Have you felt supported and challenged in a positive way?
I am grateful to have support from expert men and women within the chemical and plastics industry. The member company representatives I interact with on a daily basis are sharp engineers and material scientists who support the next generation of the industry – both in terms of its workforce, as well as evolving the industry’s ethos.
What do you like about your field and what you do?
I love the intersection of science, policy, and value chain engagement. It’s a trifecta where technical work meets implementation by consumer product companies, and legislators and regulators are challenged to protect human health and the environment while allowing continued innovation.
I do believe misconceptions exist about the chemical and plastics industry. Continuing to be solutions providers and to communicate our contributions to greater environmental and social challenges will help us move into the future. Additionally, people often underestimate the need for communicating difficult technical subjects, or technical expertise when it comes to policy development.
How is your company bringing innovation to the forefront?
In addition to developing innovative solutions to complex problems affecting the plastics industry, such as designing waste management infrastructures globally to tackle marine litter, the ACC continues to build capacity for nurturing uncommon partnerships. The Plastics Division in particular seeks uncommon partnerships to advance sustainability goals. Projects and on-going collaborations with Ocean Conservancy, the U.S. EPA, the City of Atlanta and Vancouver, Washington are just a few examples. Collectively, bringing non-profits, industry, local/state/and or the federal government together has contributed to our successes in multiple areas: marine litter prevention; flexible film recycling; and Sustainable Materials Management.