Plastics Recycling Update

Meet the Speakers: Kelly Semrau, SC Johnson

Kelly Semrau, SC Johnson

As we move closer toward Plastics Recycling 2018, we’re excited to offer up another Q&A with one of the industry experts set to take the conference stage.

This week, we talk with Kelly Semrau, senior vice president of global corporate affairs, communication and sustainability
at SC Johnson. She’s one of the consumer-goods company representatives who will be taking part in a panel called “Brand Owner Perspectives on PCR” the morning of Feb. 21. To learn more about that session and others, see the full Plastics Recycling 2018 session schedule.

What are you expecting to cover in your presentation?

The message I hope to convey is that there is a growing tragedy as it relates to plastic film recycling. And it’s not being addressed today. Plastic film is one of the most commonly used packaging materials. It is estimated that more than 3 billion pounds of recoverable residential plastic film is generated each year in the United States. More shocking is that 96 percent of it ends up in landfills. It’s time for us to find solutions – both short and long term – to reduce what is becoming an environmental nightmare.

(Editor’s note: For a look at SC Johnson’s strategy to collect film at the curb as opposed to via drop-off sites, see our interview with Semrau from last year.)

What is the single biggest hurdle the plastics recycling industry needs to overcome to remain resilient in the coming years?

The China National Sword policy will potentially limit the types of materials that will be allowed into that country. This could impact recycling programs around the world. Changes could cause decreases in the accepted materials, and if key U.S. Federal Trade Commission thresholds of 60 percent recycling access are not met, some materials could lose their recyclable status. And ultimately this could drive a decrease in recycling behavior that is already a challenge in the U.S. But this hurdle also presents the industry with an opportunity to reduce the amount of plastic film that is sent to landfill, and could spur interest in finding and creating end market solutions.

Why are you making it a priority to be at Plastics Recycling 2018?

The aspect of the conference that excites me most is the opportunity for branded companies, like SC Johnson, to connect with leaders and companies in the plastics recycling industry. I’m looking forward to sharing news about how our company is working to find solutions to reduce plastic waste. I’m also eager to learn more about the industry’s latest innovations and to identify areas where we can collaborate. Tackling the issue of plastic waste will require collective effort of industry, business, NGOs and communities if we are truly to make an impact. I’m looking forward to a very productive and informative meeting.

Semrau will be taking part in “Brand Owner Perspectives on PCR,” slated for 8:30 to 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Plastics Recycling 2018 is set for Feb. 19-21 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit for the latest on the conference schedule and session descriptions. 

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