Meet Monika: The Scientist

Monika is an e-commerce market manager at NOVA Chemicals who helps big brands improve their sustainability by creating recyclable and sustainable packaging.

Meet Monika: e-commerce market manager, NOVA Chemicals

Monika helps some of the biggest companies in the world improve sustainability.

“I have a huge passion for sustainability. I work quite intimately with big brand companies so that they can achieve their sustainability goals.”

Something all those companies need? Packaging to protect and ship their products. Often to your front door.

“My job as an e-commerce market manager is to look at traditional e-commerce packaging that the consumer will receive and make it more sustainable as well as recyclable.”

Ever notice that more and more of the lightweight packaging being delivered to your door is made with recycled plastic? That’s partially due to Monika.

“At my company, we’re really looking at making recyclable packages and incorporating recycled content. One of the challenges that we have is trying to put more and more of that recycled content into packaging so that it’s almost 100% recycled material. So basically creating a more circular economy and reusing plastics over and over and over again.”

She’s part of a growing sustainability movement to create a circular economy in which plastic is reused instead of discarded. And as e-commerce market manager at Nova Chemicals, she’s helping multi-billion-dollar corporations contribute to that goal.

Meet Monika. One of America’s Change Makers.

With a PhD in Engineering, she’s a natural to help companies develop packaging that allows their products to arrive in one piece.

“Our customers will come to us with an example of a package that they’re interested in making. And so they’ll have different standards or requirements. Does it need to be stiff so it can stand upright? Does it need to be flat? Can it be dropped from multiple meters high and still remain intact?”

And then she adds another layer of innovation: sustainability.

“We work on sustainable packaging design with brands as well as our customers who convert our pellets into plastic film, for example. We help them design packages that are more sustainable so they can achieve their goals. For example, making thinner packaging that incorporates more recycled material while also maintaining integrity.”

One thing she focuses on: “designing for recycling.” That means creating packaging that fits into our recycling systems. Packaging that can be recycled and become part of a circular economy, rather than used once and discarded. For example, by creating e-commerce packaging from a single material, it can be recycled again and again by dropping it in the recycling bin for plastic film/bags/wraps at participating retail stores.

“A lot of the packaging that I work with is now mono material. It’s one single plastic material that makes up the packaging even though there might be different layers. That helps make that packaging recyclable.”

As a scientist, she’s excited about using her education and expertise to make a difference in the world.

“I love science. I got involved in chemical engineering because I really liked material science. As an undergrad, truthfully, I took organic chemistry thinking I wanted to cure cancer. And I realized how much I hated organic chemistry but loved material science.”

“What excites me about my job is that I literally work with something that nearly every person interacts with on a daily basis. Packaging. And there’s a way that we can improve upon that, which can impact everybody.”

While Monika understands the inherent contributions that plastic makes to sustainability, she also understands that we can do better.

“I think the biggest problem we’re focusing on today is end of life management. It’s just how we’re managing it at the very end. That’s what needs to be addressed. And I think that’s exactly what we’re doing here.”

Her company has some big sustainability ambitions.

“At Nova Chemicals, we have some great goals. One of them is to have 30% of our plastic portfolio made from recycled material by 2030. So that is one step in the right direction.”

Companies like hers that make plastic have a big role in creating solutions. And Monika is playing an important role. But there’s a role for everyone.

“When it comes to addressing the waste challenge, everyone needs to do their part. We’re working on it by making packaging fully recyclable. We’re incorporating the recycled content. We’re trying to improve recycling and come up with new technologies.”

“But at the same time, the brand owners and our customers, the converters, need to help drive that as well. Greater use of recycled content needs to be a priority. Recyclers need to work with municipalities on how to collect it. And also consumers need to be educated on how to recycle, where to recycle. So it’s definitely a full circle package when it comes to who needs to work towards that challenge. Everyone needs to do their part.”

With innovative technologies growing rapidly – such as advanced recycling which breaks down plastic into its raw materials to be remade again and again – Monika sees a very different world for used plastic in the future.

“What I would see as a success in 20 to 30 years is all packaging being fully recyclable, as well as having nearly 100% recycled content in it. I think that gives advanced recycling a good amount of time to really make large strides and make a huge difference in the world.”

Amen to that.

We wish Monika and her colleagues continued success.