logo

SPE CEO talks plastics sustainability

By: Bill Bregar

October 1, 2012

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. (Oct. 1, 1:30 p.m. ET) — Willem De Vos is CEO of the Society of Plastics Engineers. He’s also a thermoforming guy. De Vos wore both hats in a keynote speech about sustainability, kicking off the SPE Thermoforming Conference.

“Plastics is really the most sustainable solution for all of us,” he said.

De Vos noted that this was his second speech at annual SPE event. At the 2010 conference, he talked about globalization as CEO of Vitalo Group, the Belgium-based thermoformer. He became the new CEO of SPE in January of this year.

De Vos said only plastics accounts for only 4 percent of the total oil consumption, but plays a major “green” role by cutting transportation costs through packaging that is much lighter than paper, glass and steel. Plastic packaging—including thermoformed items—makes food last longer and is ideal for ready-to-east foods and single-serving sizes, he said. Plastic is used in irrigation pipes and solar panels.

He showed a slide of a thin-wall thermoformed cushioning package for a Dell computer, which has less volume that standard cardboard. That means more computers can be shipped on each truck.

Light weight is a major attribute of plastics, and De Vos is bullish on the automotive market, which needs to dramatically increase mileage standards.

“The all-plastic car. It’s one of my visions, and it’s sure that this is not as dream. It will be the reality tomorrow: Plastic chassis, plastic engines, full plastic transmissions, plastic exhaust,” he said. “You might say we are far away from that. I don’t think so. I’m sure that in the coming decades we will have a car that is completely made out of plastic.”

De Vos gave some other examples, such as composite wind turbines and self-healing bandages made with polymers.

Before his speech, he thanked Thermoforming Division leaders for having the Grand Rapids convention center named after him: DeVos Place.