This Is Plastics: Honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month


Honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month


From 3-D printing to upcycled fashion, meet some of the Asian and Asian American and Pacific Islander inventors, creatives and scientists who are leading the way in plastics recycling, reuse and innovation.

Dr. Ting Xu – Biodegradable Plastics

Dr. Ting Xu is a researcher and professor of chemistry and materials science and engineering at the University of California Berkeley. In an October 2020 peer-reviewed study in the journal Nature, Professor Xu and her team of researchers from Berkley and Amherst broke new ground with invention of  process for near-complete depolymerization of plastics. The process utilizes enzymes mixed into the plastic material, that when exposed to water and heat, begins to breakdown. The project, funded in part by the U.S. Army, could alleviate logistics challenge of waste management and other have an impact on ongoing efforts to develop new decontamination techniques and self-healing materials. The new biodegradable plastics is yet another milestone in the ongoing effort to fund and deploy advanced recycling for conventional and emerging plastics applications. Technologies like the one spearheaded by Dr. Xu’s team are crucial for ending plastic waste and creating sustainability in the plastics ecosystem.

Dr. Yueh-Lin Loo – Nanotransfer printing

Dr. Yueh-Lin (Lynn) Loo is a distinguished chemical engineer and polymer scientist at Princeton University and the inventor of nanotransfer printing, a revolutionary technology credited for advances in organic electronics, a market expected to reach US $178.25 billion in 2028. Organic electronics function by replacing components like semiconductors with organic nanostructures that require less voltage, machining while enabling a new category ultralow, lightweight and flexible devices that use nano printed structures to replace traditional and more expensive materials like silicon.  Thanks to the work of Dr. Loo, devices like cellular phones, photovoltaic cells for solar panels and LED lights could be within reach of more consumers worldwide, further reducing the barriers to access.

Dr. Hideo Kodama– 3D Printing

Japanese scientist and inventor. Hideo Kodama is credited as one of the earliest published thinkers on developing the now ubiquitous three-dimensional printing (3-D) or additive manufacturing technology In 1981 he developed two techniques that envisaged using ultra-violent light and photopolymer, to create a solid structure. Today, 3-D printing has revolutionized the process of design and fabrication process leading to breakthroughs in manufacturing that have had ripple effects in all sectors of business and life in general. The now widely deployed technology  has improved the lives of countless millions by reducing the development time for critical innovations like 3-D printed prostheses, implants and casts.  Although Dr. Kodoma was among the earliest inventors to submit a patent based on the technology, due to a lack of funding to complete the patent process within the one-year deadline, Dr. Kodama was never issued a patent.

Julie Kuo and Connie Kuo, AVRE

Julie Kuo and Connie Kou are second-generation Taiwanese Americans and who cofounded AVRE, a sustainable footwear brand they self-funded and launched in 2019 . The Kou sisters were no stranger to the footwear busines, having grown up working for the family company East Lion Corp a small operation that is now a multimillion-dollar enterprise. The company was started by their parents who emigrated from Taiwan.  AVRE shoes are among the many brands that use REPREVE, a derivative of recycled polyethylene terephthalate(PET) plastic material that is most commonly used to make plastic bottles. Each AVRE shoe is made of material equivalent to 8-10 plastic bottles. The upcycled footwear increases the sustainability of plastics and the plastics economy by diverting plastics that might otherwise have added to plastic waste to productive use. The company and the Kuo sisters have has made sustainability the core of their business model and donate a portion of earnings to organizations like Girls in Tech.

Indra Nooyi – Indian Business Tycoon and former PepsiCo CEO

Indra Nooyi is celebrated businesswoman who rose to the rank of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at PepsiCo, the multinational food and beverage corporation headquartered in Purchase, New York. Under Nooyi’s leadership, PepsiCo and the company’s foundation perused bold initiatives aimed at increasing post-consumer recycled content in its packaging, increasing the rates of recycling in the United States and worldwide. In 2018 she announced an initiative in partnership with The Recycling Partnership aimed at capturing up to seven billion recyclable containers and increase residential recycling. Nooyi stepped down as CEO in 2018 after 24 years with the company (12 as CEO) and now serves as a member of the Amazon board of directors.

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