Haley Lowry sees her job in plastics as a chance to do some good for society.
The global marketing director for a unit of Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics said a TED Talk she watched a few years ago titled "Don't Quit Your Job, Use It For Good," was a big influence on her thinking.
"It was a pivotal point for me. I didn't have to be a doctor, teacher or leader of an NGO to make an impact," she said. "And I realized, I've spent every day in this industry taking advantage of opportunities to make an impact."
Lowry, who lives in Houston, sees a need to broaden the debate around waste issues to take them beyond marine litter and solid waste.
"While marine debris and plastics end-of-life options are critical issues that we must continue to address, there is rising recognition of the negative impacts of food waste on society and the environment," she said.
She said she looks for projects that can help advance both Dow's 2025 Sustainability Goals and make a broader impact.
Lowry worked on a team to create a pilot project, the Produce Rescue Center, to take fresh produce that had been rejected by retailers and, if it was still good, have it repackaged to enhance its shelf life — this is where her Dow background came in — and give it to food banks.
"The project so closely reflects my passion to do good through business, and I know we're only grazing the surface of the impact we can make as an industry," said Lowry, who sits on the board of directors of the Houston Food Bank.
Lowry spends her time closely watching packaging trends. She's part of a team working on development of Dow's PacXpert flexible packaging products to replace rigid containers, as one example.
And she casually mentions that the recent purchase of grocer Whole Foods by online retail juggernaut Amazon highlights trends toward e-commerce that have strong implications for the packaging industry, such as how packaging can be strong enough to handle new distribution channels but also use resources efficiently and not overpackage.
The 34-year-old analyzes packaging like a die-hard sports fan might study box scores and statistics: She admits to "packaging geek-out sessions where I get wrapped up in a new package" and said there's a risk that a trip to the grocery store can turn into a two-hour store audit.
Plastics wasn't something that she "proactively targeted" as she was starting her career.
Unlike some industry peers, Lowry did not come to the industry with an education as an engineer. Instead, she has a bachelor's degree in marketing from Clemson University and an MBA from the University of Texas.
But she said she likes to challenge herself to "think beyond what I know and what makes me comfortable."
"For the first five years of my career, I felt I needed to prove why I deserved to be in this industry — as a woman with a business background who thinks creatively," she said. "But as I grew in my career, I started to realize that this is what makes me different. It's my personal competitive advantage."
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