The world of plastics is an expansive one, touching nearly every corner of our lives. It is an industry that has grown and evolved over the years, and at the heart of this evolution are professionals such as Steve Petrakis.

Petrakis, who is retiring as the VP of industry affairs, equipment and mold makers council for the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS), has spent nearly six decades in the industry, shaping it and being shaped by it. In an exclusive interview, Petrakis shared his insights about his career, the importance of mentoring, and the future of the plastics industry.

[Read the full interview here]

A Legacy of Relationships

When asked about the best part of working in the plastics industry, Petrakis didn’t hesitate: “The people. I’ve just loved the people throughout the years. I have made lifelong friends. I have made business friends. I just thoroughly enjoyed working with all the people.”

Indeed, Petrakis’s journey in plastics started with a familial relationship. His father, Myron Petrakis, was one of the first plastic engineering graduates in the country and started a sales agency in the industry. The younger Petrakis, despite initially studying foods and managing a grocery store, found himself drawn into the plastics industry.

“The chain I worked for shut down all their stores,” Petrakis explained. “And I went on sales calls with him, and I watched him walk into companies…And here I am, 45 years later.”

A Passion for Mentoring

Petrakis’s work ethic and commitment to relationships extend to the next generation of plastics professionals. He has actively mentored younger professionals and students throughout his career.

When asked why, he underscored the importance of passing on knowledge: “There are just too many people my age that are going to retire. And I’m doing my best to download whatever knowledge I have so that it stays within the industry.”

Petrakis has not only mentored students and young professionals but has also been a champion in promoting the industry’s versatility. He emphasized the multitude of career opportunities within the industry, saying, “Pretty much short of being a doctor, I can’t think of a career that you can’t fill in the plastics industry.”

Challenges and Opportunities for the Plastics Industry

Even as he nears retirement, Petrakis is deeply invested in the future of the plastics industry. He reflected on the significant technological advancements he’s witnessed, from a 96-cavity cap mold running 2.5-second cycles in 1982 to the ongoing efforts to create biodegradable plastics and improve recycling.

The challenges are real, but Petrakis believes the solutions lie in the creativity and ingenuity of the next generation of plastics professionals. “I think in the next 10 years there is really going to be a changing of the guard, and we will all fade into the sunset. Hopefully, the young people will be very creative and keep the industry growing and prospering,” he said.

Saying Goodbye to the Industry

With his intended farewell tour at the NPE (National Plastics Exposition) canceled due to unforeseen circumstances, Petrakis is ready to embrace a quieter transition to retirement. Despite the disappointment, he is looking forward to spending more time with his family, particularly his grandchildren.

Asked about his legacy, Petrakis said, “I think I’m leaving the industry better than I walked into it.” His approach to building relationships, mentoring the next generation, and being open to learning and evolving is certainly an inspiration for professionals in the plastics industry and beyond.

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