Economic Impact

“The Story of Polystyrene Is Changing.”

After nearly 40 years in the plastics industry, Gary Welsh is still amazed by the true sustainable and positive impact of the materials he works with every day.

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He’d like more people to know just how environmentally conscious the plastics industry is.

“If I could change anything, I would help the public better understand the utility and sustainability of polystyrene and other types of plastics,” Gary said.

When Gary was in high school, he found himself naturally skilled in math and science. Something about engineering, specifically, spoke to him. “At the time, I viewed engineering and chemistry as more of applied sciences versus something more theoretical, and that was a great fit for my personality,” Gary said.

This innate interest led him to work toward a chemical engineering degree at the University of Cincinnati. The program involved a mandatory co-op, and his position was with Dow Chemical. After graduation, Gary interviewed for other positions, but he enjoyed his work so much that he pursued a permanent position with Dow. He remembers being intrigued by a display in the lobby that showcased a variety of articles made from various plastics. The display first caught his eye while he was waiting for an interview. “Seeing the huge number of plastics applications truly impacted me,” he said.

After 30 years at Dow Chemical, he transitioned to a new role, with AmSty. Gary works with polystyrene, a material that’s used in appliance manufacturing, cup and cutlery molding, and home insulation. Polystyrene is also used to make a variety of medical devices, such as petri dishes, pipettes and syringe plungers.

“Plastics are very versatile materials,” Gary said. “There are constant innovations in different polymer families. We’re always working to find ways to replace other materials, such as glass or paper, with more efficient ones, like polystyrene.”

Gary said he’s excited to help more people understand the positive advancements that are happening with polystyrene and other types of plastic.

A lot of criticism and misperception remain about polystyrene in particular. We have a great story to share about the sustainability of polystyrene and other plastics, but effectively sharing that story with the public is a challenge. People don’t often realize that polystyrene is recyclable and can be reused, the way we do with the PolyRenew® resin. The industry is looking for more products like that.

Gary and others at AmSty are currently working on a technology, called PolyUsable™, that can take polystyrene back to its most basic monomer state to be repolymerized and reused again and again without degradation. The technology is a revolutionary way to deal with the end-of-life concerns for plastics.

Gary has been an integral part of many advancements in the plastics industry throughout his career. He holds several patents, and his contributions to packaging and durable applications are widely recognized throughout the industry.

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