Mon, June 17
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What Do Entrepreneurs Do?


John Liston.

For a great look at how entrepreneurship works in Edmonton, Alberta, we can look to Orion Plastics.

In the movie The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman is pulled aside by an entrepreneur, Mr. Maguire, who says, I just want to say one word to you. Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?”

The plastics industry has grown rapidly. Today, plastic resins and products represent $35 billion in sales in Canada and those plastic resins ($10 billion) and plastic products ($25 billion) manufactured in Canada accounts for over 5 per cent of the sales in the nation’s manufacturing sector, while employing 93,000 people across 1,932 establishments.

In Canada, plastic products are in demand in most sectors of the economy, with approximately 4,667 kilotonnes (kt) of plastics introduced to the domestic market on an annual basis (more than 125 kilograms per capita). Three categories (packaging, construction and automotive) show a particular appetite for plastic, accounting for 69 per cent of plastic end use. As well, 73 per cent of all critical medical devices are made from plastic. (Data Source: 2019 Report Environment and Climate Change Canada)

One challenge we face is that plastic materials are not fully recovered yet and that represents a lost opportunity of $7.8 billion for Canada in recycling this resource (based on the value of virgin resin material). The world needs plastic, and we need to develop better ways to recycle this incredible resource.

Enter the entrepreneur. When free enterprise is allowed to work, the concept of both meeting a marketplace need, being able to do it cost effectively, and understanding your social responsibility all come together. We need businesses to produce innovative products by using environmentally friendly processes and make a profit while doing it.

When we look at St. Albert-based company Orion Plastics, a proud member of the Alberta Enterprise Group, what you will see is a company that is succeeding in all of these measures. As a result, they were able to pivot in the early pandemic onset and re-invest profits to create the material for PPE masks in Alberta. They went from concept to knowledge development to prototype and full production in two months. Add to that the solar roof covering their facility, and the solar installation on their back lot, and what you will find is a private company that provides power backup to the community, solves a world problem in PPE manufacturing, and does it all while recycling the majority of their own waste materials.

This is why we’re thrilled to see Orion Plastics and their leadership team celebrated in this month’s edition for their 20th anniversary. Stephen Moore, Greg Makar and Nuno Branco have stepped up to the challenges to become a key player in the plastics industry.

It is vital as a society that we get away from the concept of business or environment. As demonstrated by Orion Plastics, it is business and environment. This is what entrepreneurs do.