An Accountant’s Chance Encounter with Plastics

March 29, 2024

Shortly after John Urbaitis graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a recruiter connected him with an accountant role at plastic resin distributor, M. Holland Company. “At that time, I didn’t understand the scope and role the industry plays in keeping the world turning,” John said.

After discovering everything the plastics industry does to make contemporary life possible, John felt himself very much at home in an industry that makes such a difference. Today, as a Senior business analyst, he describes his work as “Making technology products that help users do their job and unburden them from mundane tasks.”

Fascinated by possibilities

Asked what it is that intrigues him so much about the plastics industry, John said, “The broad usage of plastic allows the industry to have experts in all those applications. Each expert has deep insights regarding the industry their application is used in and is more than happy to discuss that industry, whether that’s healthcare, automotive, food packaging, or another of the many applications that exist for plastics.”

That incredible range of applications has made John something of an evangelist for plastics: “Working in the industry changed my perspective on how important plastic is to maintaining the standard of living modern society expects,” he said, going on to share a conversation in which he mentioned that he works in the plastics industry.

“The person I was speaking with asked, ‘Like plastic toothbrushes?’ John recalled. In response, John proceeded to walk his conversation partner around the room they were in, pointing out all of the plastic items within just those four walls. “They were shocked!” he said.

Passionate about the future

People not understanding, or having been given a false understanding, of the plastics industry is a frustration for John. “I think the industry is plagued by perception issues and subsequently not able to attract younger talent,” he said. “The industry needs to continue to expand and champion sustainability efforts and educate younger generations on the vital role plastic plays in society.”

John wants those younger generations, like his, to understand the incredible opportunities available to them in the industry. “I think someone from my generation should pursue a career in plastics for two reasons,“ he shared. “One, it gets them involved in a growing industry that can directly impact the future health of our planet and society. Two, the career prospects are vast, and the industry needs fresh talent to continue to evolve.”

Dedicated to learning

One of the ways in which John continues to evolve personally is through Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP). A PLASTICS initiative dedicated to personal and professional development for industry professionals under the age of 40. “It has been beneficial to have a group of likeminded individuals to discuss ideas with,” he said. “FLiP also provides training and webinars to prompt conversations internally and within the various companies that participate. I have also interacted with people in many roles within the industry, which has broadened my perspective.” John added that he is looking forward to participating in the FLiP Mentorship Program over the coming months.

We ended our conversation with John on our traditional closing question: What’s one plastic product you couldn’t live without? “It may be controversial,” he answered, “but I couldn’t live without so-called ‘single use’ plastic bags. Every bag I use goes through multiple uses before it sees the end of its life. And then I recycle it.”

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]