It might be hard for Eric Roegner to ever go back into the aluminum industry.
As current president of Amcor Rigid Packaging and a former executive for Alcoa, Roegner has made it clear how he views plastics when compared with other packaging substrates.
And he doesn't mince words when it comes to loving PET or bashing aluminum.
If ever there was a poster boy for PET and plastics, Roegner just might be him — and he is unequivocal.
"I believe that plastic packaging, especially the PET bottle, is the most sustainable packaging option on earth. PET bottles can be made from 100 percent recycled material and are 100 percent recyclable. Despite this, public perception remains fixated on the issue of plastic pollution, overshadowing PET bottles' inherent sustainability attributes," Roegner said.
"PET bottles are lightweight, and the minimal amount of energy required to produce them is significantly lower than aluminum or glass packaging. It is imperative that the plastics industry is proactive in communications to dispel misconceptions and educate on the environmental merits and benefits of plastics packaging," he said.
"In my capacity as the president of Amcor Rigid Packaging, I am committed to championing the truth about plastics," he said.
Roegner has been with Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Amcor Rigid Packaging, a subsidiary of global packaging company Amcor plc, since 2018, following 12 years at aluminum company Alcoa, which was renamed Arconic after spinning off assets that retained that company's name.
Along the way, he held a series of leadership positions at the aluminum firm in a wide range of divisions, including rolled products, engineered products and solutions, extruded products, hard alloy extrusions, defense, and forgings and extrusions.
Roegner said the aluminum industry has been successful in crafting a story about sustainability and he believes PET can do the same.
"Having spent 12 years in the aluminum industry, I gained firsthand knowledge about the competitive advantages of PET packaging and how it is more sustainable than aluminum or glass because it offers reduced greenhouse gas emissions, a smaller carbon footprint, boasts the ability to be made with 100 percent recycled material, and can be 100 percent recycled, all while being more cost-effective and energy-efficient," Roegner claimed.
"During my time in the aluminum industry, I observed how effectively the industry reshaped its image by creating and communicating a clear and compelling message. Given that PET packaging has a superior sustainability profile and is 100 percent recyclable, I saw significant opportunity to craft an even more compelling message and alter public perceptions about plastics," he claimed.
Roegner is a frequent speaker at plastics industry conferences, telling his own story, highlighting what Amcor and PET bring to the table, and aiming to provide inspiration to others in the plastics industry to become more vocal.
"The biggest challenge thus far has been addressing and rectifying widespread misconceptions about plastic bottles and their recyclability. There are an increasing number of anti-plastic voices in the packaging industry and surrounding environments, often amplified by naysayers who use the narrative of plastic waste for political leverage or to increase fundraising. I've found that the best way to combat anti-plastic perception is through a robust education approach, grounded in fact-based discussion and transparent communication," he said.
"Education is the key. The plastics industry needs to proactively strengthen our communication and education efforts to dismantle the prevalent myths about plastic bottles through enlightening the public on the tangible benefits and science behind plastics, particularly in terms of recyclability and environmental impact," he said.
Plastics have a perception problem, and Roegner knows that. But he also believes that can change.
"Plastic bottles are commonly misconstrued for being difficult to recycle and harmful to the environment — a misconception that arises from improper disposal practices. By leading with the scientific and environmental advantages of using PET bottles, which are not only highly recyclable but also represent some of the most sustainable packaging options available, the industry can foster a more informed public," he said. "Through education, we can create an environment where consumers use plastics responsibly, engage in recycling and actively contribute to the circular economy."
Roegner also believes it is important not to just talk about the importance of plastics recycling. While others might say they walk the walk, Roegner actually runs the run when it comes to bottle collection.
"On a personal note, my commitment to sustainability does not end in the boardroom. It is a practice I integrate into my daily life, either through picking up plastic bottles during my morning jogs or while visiting college campuses, manufacturing sites and airports, and returning the plastic bottles to the recycling stream, keeping the circular economy running," he said.
Prior to his time at Alcoa and Arconic, Roegner spent 12 years with consulting firm McKinsey & Co. from 1994 to 2006. He also spent time at Nordson Corp. as a production planner in automotive and adhesives. Roegner is a Princeton University grad with a bachelor's degree in aerospace and mechanical engineering. He earned his Master of Business Administration from Case Western Reserve University.
Roegner has been a member of the Plastics Industry Association board since 2019 and a member of that group's finance committee. He also is vice chair of the Processors Council.
He's also been a member of the Princeton Institute for Science and Technology of Materials since 2017 and was named chairman of the group in 2023.
"I aim to steer our efforts toward groundbreaking materials research, all with a focus on sustainability and recyclability," he said.
"My optimism about the potential and future of PET packaging fuels my passion for this industry and why I am so interested and committed to its growth," Roegner said.