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 Newtown, Conn., group's Thermoforming Conference.
“Plastics is really the most sustainable solution for all of us,” he said.
De Vos noted the speech was his second at the annual SPE event. At the 2010 conference, he talked about globalization as CEO of Vitalo Group, a Meulebeke, Belgium-based thermoformer. He became CEO of SPE in January 2012.
De Vos said plastics accounts for only 4 percent of 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-eat foods, he said. Plastic also is used in solar panels, he noted.
De Vos is bullish on plastics' future in the automotive market, which needs to increase mileage standards dramatically.
“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 of plastics' success, such as in composite wind turbines and self-healing bandages made with polymers.
Before his speech, he jokingly thanked Thermoforming Division leaders for having the Grand Rapids convention center named after him: DeVos Place.