In a world where a lot of guys are worried about abs, Sebastian Lange is more concerned about ABS—as in “acrylonitrile butadiene styrene”—the kind of plastic Lego uses. “Being a dad of three young boys,” he said, “I don’t want to live without Lego bricks.”
It’s just one more example of what plastic does for Sebastian’s family.
A mechanical engineer by trade and training, Sebastian is very proud of supporting his family as vice president of the Film Division at Brueckner Group USA, a Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) member that engineers, builds and services production lines for plastic films used in such sectors as flexible packaging, solar panels, capacitors, and lithium-Ion batteries.
Fighting a false narrative
In fact, Sebastian’s pride has continually increased over the years to a point where he no longer feels the need to be defensive when people criticize plastic. “It takes time to explain the holistic impact of our industry,” he said. “Often, I make use of booklets and videos from Brueckner’s Yes, we care campaign, to give people a better perspective on what plastic products produced on Brueckner equipment mean for the global society and what we as Brueckner do to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint and achieve better recyclability.”
Sebastian is happy to engage in those conversations because of a future-focused attitude that sees such interactions as crucial. “The debate about single-use plastics, for instance, is needed and healthy and more than just an industry challenge,” he said. “It is the chance to eventually correct a perspective on commonplace plastic products that was shaped by a more emotional than fact-based discussion in the last couple of years.” He went on to say that people need to understand that plastics are more than just convenient and inexpensive, they are crucial for a functional global supply chain and irreplaceable for a lot of life saving applications.
Calling for a new generation of leaders
An additional threat to the industry, according to Sebastian, is the slim talent pipeline feeding into the global plastics industry, due to negative public perceptions of plastics. “The number of college programs in plastics have declined due to a lack of students interested in graduating with degrees in plastics or chemical engineering,” he said. Sebastian recommends massive promotion, funding programs, and scholarships to counter what he sees as an upcoming industry brain drain due to the looming retirement of what Sebastian calls, “the plastic pioneer generation.”
Sebastian wants to make the members of that pioneer generation proud of the industry they have created by making sure they feel confident in the people to whom they are passing the torch. “I am excited about the upcoming generation change in the industry and thrilled to contribute to giving plastic products the image they deserve,” Sebastian said. And he called on others of his generation to join him, adding, “There are boundless opportunities to develop and improve solutions in all kinds of applications from aerospace to pharma from sustainability to profitability. Plastic was, and is, the key in so many ways, and talent is needed around the world.”
Bringing a new generation together
One important resource Sebastian recommends for young people already in the plastics industry, and who have the benefit of working for a PLASTICS member company, as he does, is Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), PLASTICS’ initiative focused on professional development for plastics professionals under the age of 40. “My first true interaction with FLiP was during this year’s spring meeting in Chicago,” he said. “The dialogue with young talents from different companies working on similar topics can be extremely helpful and inspiring. The networking opportunities and chance to gain a better perspective on how the plastic industry functions and where it is going is a true benefit I do not want to miss.”
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]