Katie Vorel, of Nexus Circular, worked as an Environmental, Health and Safety Manager in truck body manufacturing when her supervisor moved to a job at an injection molding company. “We worked well together, and there was suddenly an open role in EHS at the plant,” said Katie. “It was a nearly blank slate for me to set up an EHS program from scratch and in plastics.”
It was in her new role that Katie became more and more fascinated by plastics.
“I learned how vastly huge the plastic industry really is and how intertwined the community is,” said Katie. “So, when a recruiter reached out to me about a company that was taking the plastic we were manufacturing, recycling it, and turning it back into a product that could be used once again, I had to know more.”
After an initial interview with Jodie Morgan, CEO of Nexus Circular—a leader in advanced recycling, specializing in hard-to-recycle plastics—Katie “was hooked.”
Taking another rewarding step forward
Today, Katie is Nexus Circular’s Health, Safety, and Environmental Manager, using a risk-based approach to analyze potential hazards that may affect people and the environment, and then determine solutions for mitigating risks.
Her work has proven every bit as satisfying as Katie expected. “It’s rewarding working in a field where something you make could save someone, make someone’s life easier, or provide resources that may not have been available without plastics,” she said. “At Nexus, we’re helping our partners turn landfill-bound plastics into something new again.”
Another benefit of working at Nexus Circular is Katie’s involvement with FLiP (Future Leaders in Plastics), the Plastics Industry Association’s (PLASTICS) development initiative for plastics professionals under age 40. “Joining FLiP has really shown me how different our members are and how we work so cohesively together,” she said. “The plastics industry is enormous, but it is one of the industries where it feels like everyone is working together to accomplish common goals.”
Caring for the industry’s future
Katie also spoke highly of PLASTICS’ efforts to give the public the truth about plastic materials. “I think one of the major challenges the plastics industry is facing today is the stigma of plastics being ‘bad for the environment,’” she said. “I think series like ‘Recycling is Real’ are imperative to continued growth and improving the perception of plastics.”
Getting more young people interested in careers within the plastics industry is another avenue Katie believes the industry should pursue. “One of the challenges we’re facing is people’s lack of knowledge of potential careers in the industry,” she said. “Prior to moving into plastics, I didn’t realize all the different organizations and functions that exist in our industry.” Katie believes continuing to promote initiatives such as the annual Manufacturing Day and reaching out to the public, especially college-age individuals, will be important to building the plastics work force of the future.
On a personal note, Katie has been amazed by seeing just how much plastic people use on a daily basis and how much of it can be recycled. “When I’m out shopping, I truly look at the products, the packaging, and how I can recycle it once I purchase it,” she said. “I find myself bringing the hard-to-recycle plastics with me to work so I can put them in our feedstock.”
What’s the plastic item in her own life that Katie couldn’t do without? “My suitcases! I love to travel and when I do, I’m the person who brings all the just-in-case items,” she said. “I’m good to travel with—unless you’re my husband, who has to carry all my bags!”
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]