Doing the Science Behind Quality Assurance

November 28, 2023

Because plastics are so necessary, Eric encourages young people seeking careers to consider plastics or to, at least, understand that plastic will most likely play an essential role in whichever career they pursue.

Eric Andrews, a chemist with degrees from both Marquette University and Loyola University Chicago, works as a U.S.-based Technical Services Manager for Colour Synthesis Solutions (CSS). “At CSS, we synthesize high-purity organic compounds and polymers for smart applications in the U.K.,” Eric explained, “and operate a lab in the U.S. devoted to trace-level impurities analysis and risk assessment for food-contact compliance.”

For those of us whose grasp of chemistry peaked in high school, we asked Eric to explain exactly what he does in the course of a day. “I read as much as I can about changes to food packaging regulations throughout the world,” he responded. “I interact with the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety. I take meetings and quote customers on declaration-of-compliance projects. I conduct in-house studies that require molding plastic test plaques, and I manage and report on trace-level impurities analysis of plastic resins, additives and final parts for our customers.”

Essential work behind the scenes

Eric’s life in laboratories took him through the worlds of waste-water treatment and then paint formulations before leading him on a path towards the plastics industry, where he does the kind of work people who rely on plastics every day have no idea is being done on their behalf.

“I started out quality-control testing dyes and pigments which were imported for plastics applications,” Eric said. “That was followed by running migration testing for food-contact materials and articles involving colorants. I then began developing impurities testing routines to support risk assessment of products for declaring compliance in the E.U. and U.S.”

Today, most of Eric’s work revolves around compliance of plastics additives and the performance of multilayer films. He says it’s a rewarding way to spend his days. “I enjoy learning about new materials,” he said, “the challenges in bringing them safely to market, society’s ability to recycle them, and being able to work with talented people capable of synthesizing incredible things.”

Emphasizing an understanding of plastics

Life in the lab has done a lot to broaden Eric’s perception of plastics in the wider world. “I’m much more knowledgeable about and sensitive to recycling and our carbon footprint in my home and our local community,” he said. “I think the challenges are in educating the general public about recycling and the safe, necessary use of plastics for the future of the human race.”

Because plastics are so necessary, Eric encourages young people seeking careers to consider plastics or to, at least, understand that plastic will most likely play an essential role in whichever career they pursue. “Plastics are essential for life,” he said. “We should understand them as much as possible. In many ways plastics are still mysterious to most people despite how commonplace they are in all facets of life.”

Broadening professional perspective

His own career having brought him to a PLASTICS member company, Eric has enjoyed having access to Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), the association’s professional-development initiative for industry professionals under the age of 40. “FLiP has motivated me to host a community clean up event to great success, and to become more involved with my peers,” he said. Through FLiP, Eric has also participated in PLASTICS’ annual D.C. Fly-In, which brings industry representatives together with elected officials and their staff members on Capitol Hill. It’s an opportunity he said encouraged him to “participate at a higher level in our society’s law-making efforts surrounding plastics.”

In closing, we asked this professional analytical chemist our highly analytical traditional closing question: What’s one plastic item you couldn’t do without? Eric’s answer: “It’s a toss-up between my toothbrush and my pants!”

That’s one of our best responses ever! The people who get to share a lab with Eric are pretty fortunate.

PLASTICS and the Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) Committee are devoted to supporting and encouraging the next generation of plastics leaders who will play a crucial role in the innovation, technology and future of the plastics industry. FLiP’s mission is to provide young professionals under the age of 40 the exposure, education and resources they need to build lifelong careers in plastics. Want to join? Want to get your employees involved?  Email: [email protected]