Catherine Chaplin joined the plastics industry in 2018 when she came aboard to support her husband's growing business, Jenerxx Inc., which specializes in identifying generic primelike resin alternatives to help companies achieve cost-saving and sustainability initiatives.
She helped her father-in-law start Sustainable Resins LLC, which is focused on green solutions for plastics manufacturers and consumer brands, in 2019. Chaplin is director of operations and business development for Sustainable Resins.
"I had never started a business, worked for a family business or worked in plastics, but we've achieved great success as a team," Chaplin said in her Women Breaking the Mold survey. "We are committed to making a difference, and it's been great to see the positive reception of our concept — using resins derived from existing resources — in the industry."
Chaplin graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in communication studies. She previously worked as a recruiter/trainer in relocation services for Dwellworks LLC and international HR specialist for Robert Bosch LLC.
"The opportunities at Bosch gave me invaluable exposure to the manufacturing world, where I gained understanding of the technical elements that would eventually become relevant for a career in raw materials/plastics," Chaplin said.
She is a member of the Society of Plastics Engineers and Association of Plastic Recyclers.
"Switching roles and sectors keeps you on a constant trajectory of learning new things and constantly proving yourself in these new areas as you develop expertise," Chaplin added. "You can't be complacent – force yourself out of your comfort zone and the outcomes can be highly rewarding."
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Chaplin: Consumer products aimed towards incorporating post-consumer resin (PCR) into their goods.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Chaplin: Overcoming the barriers to entry for PCR in the manufacturing sector — identifying ideal/optimal applications, remaining cost competitive with the virgin/prime market at its low, consequences of reduced production as a result of COVID-19. We are committed to showcasing the value and impact of using reclaimed materials. Recycled material is the key to a circular economy.
Q: If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Chaplin: See what is going on on the floor. Talk to the employees. See and understand how the operation/tools work. Participate in customer calls. Allow those who want to learn shadow my meetings/conversations.
Leaders who can understand what is going on "in the trenches" have been most impactful to me during my career. I would try to convey the value of the people within my organization, as your talent is always your best asset. Your business doesn't have much value without your team and their ability to collaborate with one another.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Chaplin: I would love to directly support a sustainability group, either in the business, government or health care sector. They are the cornerstone of new and innovative solutions for implementing the changes needed in the plastics industry. I would love to be part of the chain that can impact decisions and drive change.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Chaplin: Adaptability is key — focus on innovation and customizing your solutions/scope of work based on customer feedback.