Mining for Industry Insights

April 27, 2023

Emily Friedman is a markets editor, covering recycled plastics in the US/North American region for ICIS (Independent Commodity Intelligence Services), a group that helps businesses across the chemical, fertilizer and energy markets make strategic decisions, mitigate risk and capitalize on new opportunities.

Dinner conversations at Emily Friedman’s house can easily veer from table-talk to the science of petrochemicals. Both she and her husband, Scott, work in the industry. “He works in downstream manufacturing, and I focus on the commercial side of the industry,” Emily said. “I love how we both can talk the talk and exchange information from different perspectives. We just have to remind ourselves not to talk about work too much!”

Those reminders probably need to be issued fairly often, because there’s a lot of knowledge at that table. Emily is a markets editor for ICIS (Independent Commodity Intelligence Services), a group that helps businesses across the chemical, fertilizer and energy markets make strategic decisions, mitigate risk and capitalize on new opportunities.

Going from engineer to analyst

A materials science engineer by degree, Emily was exposed to polymers and polymer science very early as a researcher, developing a passion for sustainability and pursuing projects such as using bio-filler in automotive plastics. After college at Virginia Tech, Emily became entrenched in the world of plastics as a corrosion engineer and then as a reliability engineer for ExxonMobil, supporting both refining and chemical production units.

Today, as a Senior Market Editor, covering recycled plastics in the US/North American region, Emily produces insights that help companies make smart decisions on how to successfully and profitably pursue sustainability. “I get to be a part of the evolution of our linear economy to a circular economy, with recycled plastics leading the way!” she said, “Our company’s independent, transparent market intelligence informs thousands of quality decisions every day, taking the pressure out of negotiations and giving customers space for more innovative thinking.”

Believing that plastics matter

When asked what she enjoys about life in the plastics industry, Emily responded, as many do, with a focus on people. “I love the journey people take when understanding the role of plastic in our everyday lives and in our future,” she said. “Some start out skeptical, but I think it’s cool to see folks turn into advocates, as they learn how multifaceted plastic is, what it has helped us achieve, and the importance of well managed plastic as it pertains to the circular economy.”

Emily is particularly passionate about seeing more and more people of her generation make that journey from skepticism to advocacy, and then considering a career in plastics, where they can play a role in making a difference for people. “When managed correctly by producers and consumers, plastics continue to be a driving force for good in the world,” she explained, “from breakthrough technologies that wouldn’t be possible without the properties of plastics, to sustaining a lower carbon footprint circular economy of the future.” Emily went on to add, “While there are many areas in need of improvement within this industry, I am always a proponent of changing from within, so come join us!”

Enjoying the industry’s reach

And if young newcomers find themselves working at a PLASTICS member company, as Emily does, they can join her in enjoying the benefits of FLiP (Future Leaders in Plastics), the association’s initiative for industry professionals under the age of 40. “I have truly enjoyed the thoughtful conversations from podcast/books we have reviewed in FLiP,” Emily said, “as well as the benefit of networking opportunities across the plastics industry.”

When Emily talks about plastics having a profound effect on people, she’s speaking from the experience of the kind of speaking plastics allow her to do. Holding up her phone, she said, “There are so many plastic components that go into a modern smart phone. And they help connect me with my family who are thousands of miles away. I am indebted to this little square.”

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]