Hosokawa Polymer Systems
Jack Bowne • 800-233-6112
“Plastics, young man; plastics.” That line
from the 1967 movie, The Graduate, held special significance
to Jack Bowne, vice president of sales and marketing of Hosokawa
Polymer Systems. When that movie came out, he was working in
the electronics industry, but by 1968, he had started working
for a company that had both an electronics division and a plastics
“I didn’t see the movie until 1968,” he said.
And while he was working for the electronics division when he
first started with the company, it wasn’t long before he was
working for the plastics division. The movie seemed to be prophetic.
At that time, the company he worked for was
importing and reselling granulation equipment, but by the mid-70s
it started manufacturing its own equipment. That company was
sold several times, until it finally became Hosokawa Polymer
Systems. Bowne stayed with the company through all of those changes.
These days, not only does the company manufacture
granulation systems, but it also engineers complete systems for
recovering and recycling plastics.
Bowne said that the biggest part of the business
is working with industrial recycling, where manufacturers pelletize
and reuse their own materials. “They can put it right back into
the manufacturing,” Bowne said.
In the film industry – the manufacture of
plastic grocery bags, dry cleaning bags, and similar thin plastics
– Bowne said there was “a tremendous amount” of material that
can be reused within the plant.
Back when Bowne started in the business,
plastic was not as ubiquitous as it is today. “You touch plastic
all day long,” he said, from plastic bottles to plastic pipes
for water in your house to food packaging, blister packaging,
meat and frozen food packaging. And none of that existed when
Bowne first started in the industry.
“Think of the medical industry,” he said,
where not only is plastic used for equipment, but plastic lenses
are used for cataract patients.
In the automotive industry, gas tanks in
cars are now plastic, after years of being made from steel and
then aluminum. Car bumpers are plastic rather than steel. None
of that was true when Bowne was watching The Graduate and beginning
his career in the industry.
Bowne said that one of the more interesting
projects was for a manufacturer of blow-molded gas tanks. “We
have to take this plastic in a hot form and granulate it while
it’s still almost molten,” he said. Besides being hot, there’s
a lot of it – about 4,000 pounds per hour.
Besides granulating the plastic, the process
also includes removing any metal fittings or other foreign material
that would contaminate the plastic and potentially damage the
Another big change Bowne has seen has been
the increase in post-consumer recycling, but he noted that “we,
as a county, are very poor at it,” and that European countries
are generally better at recycling. Here, a lot of plastic end
up at landfills or is used as a fuel source. “It’s not recycled
back into a product again, but it could be,” he said.
Some plastic recycling is difficult because
of the costs involved. “It has to become economically feasible,
so the recycled is less money than the virgin material,” he said.
In some states, bottle
bills keep plastic bottles out of landfills because consumers
want to get their deposits back. “But we don’t take it all the
way,” he said. “It’s foolish.”
While recycling has increased, Bowne is disappointed that disposal
has also increased. Back when he was growing up, “you bought
a radio, you bought a television, you would fix it,” he said.
“Now, you throw it away. There is more in the trash stream and
in the recycling stream.”
That attitude extends to manufacturing, Bowne
said. Companies used to buy machinery and keep it running for
20 or 30 years. Now, “people buy a lesser machine and they know
they can dispose of it in a few years.”
After many years in the industry, Bowne said,
“It’s been fun. It used to be more fun.” He made a lot of relationships
over the years with customers. “I loved working with different
people over the years,” he said. “I’ve been all around the world
selling our products.” But now, there are a lot more hassles
involved in traveling, which makes it a little less appealing.
“It was a joy to travel years ago.”
But still, he enjoyed his 43 years with the
business as it grew, and he enjoyed being involved in so many
different aspects of the business, from his position in sales
and marketing. Because, he said, “The title may be one thing,
but the involvement is different.”