Kickstart: Finding partners, opening doors

TerraCycle Include USA ZWB
Finding partners, opening doors

The Society of Plastics Engineers' PlastiVan program has visited hundreds — if not thousands — of classrooms over the years to introduce kids to plastics and STEM programs in general.

But how do you reach out to kids most in need of exposure to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers while also opening doors to a more diverse workforce? As Sarah Kominek writes, SPE looked to partner with a someone already working with kids in urban Detroit schools: Keith Young, founder of Detroit-based science research lab Ecotek Science at Work. This summer, with many education programs sidelined or shuffled to virtual content only, Young and PlastiVan hoped to see some 1,000 students from fourth through 12th grade for its new program in Detroit. But by June, about 6,000 had taken part. Alumni from Young's Ecotek program also are among the first Black educators for PlastiVan: Evan Morton and Briana Young. "I want to help lead the next generation of young scientists find their passion," Morton said. Sarah's story on PlastiVan's work in Detroit is just one part of the special report Plastics News staffers produced this week about diversity in the plastics industry. You can go to www.plasticsnews.com/diversity to find all of our coverage.
Excuse me, but you can recycle that stapler
I know a lot of people have already returned to their offices. Or they never left them. (Or they work on the manufacturing floor, so may have been putting in extra time at work.) But with an estimated 44 percent of U.S. workers preparing to return to the office, recycling group TerraCycle says it is gearing up collection programs to meet the needs of a changing office environment. "No matter if you're implementing a hybrid schedule or if you're planning to return to the office in full force this fall, our workplaces will likely begin to look a lot different compared to how we left them," Tom Szaky, CEO and founder of TerraCycle, said. TerraCycle says its Zero Waste Boxes are designed to be an easy recycling point for "nearly every conceivable piece of office waste" not normally recycled through regular recycling systems. Similar TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes were developed to help deal with personal protective equipment. An office products waste box can be used for binders, labels, binder clips, stickers, desk organizers and even staplers. (Just make sure you don't trash the good stapler.) There are also boxes for media storage such as CDs and memory sticks and electronic waste. TerraCycle then sorts through boxes sent to it to reclaim material and turn it back into new products.
Early warning systems?
I'm sure you've noticed that masks are coming back for many communities and businesses. U.S. automakers that had just dropped mask requirements earlier this summer reinstated them starting today. Unlike the early weeks of the pandemic, health systems appear to have plenty of protective equipment on hand, but the resurging coronavirus has communities keeping a close eye on conditions. But what if there was some way to detect if the virus is in the air in an office or classroom? Opteev, a company majority owned by auxiliary equipment maker Novatec Inc., is beginning to market the ViraWarn, a plug-in air sensing system that it says can detect the virus. "With more people dying from COVID-19 in the first six months of 2021 than all of 2020, it's clear that the pandemic is far from behind us," said Conrad Bessemer, Novatec CEO and co-founder of Opteev. "Less than half of Americans are fully vaccinated and dangerous COVID-19 variants have been identified. New procedures and technologies are needed to stop the spread of COVID-19 this year while allowing people to enjoy their lives." Catherine Kavanaugh has more about the system here, and Opteev says ViraWarn is being tested by outside groups.