Ted Harris joined Ashland Performance Materials in 2004 as vice president and general manager of the Composite Polymers group. In 2006, he was named a vice president of Ashland and president of Ashland Distribution. He is currently president of Ashland Performance Materials.
Why focus on green manufacturing?
We began a program with John Deere and the United Soybean Board in 1999 that focused on ways to incorporate bio-based resins into manufactured products. John Deere wanted to utilize their customers’ (farmers) product as a component in the equipment they manufacture. We saw this as an excellent opportunity to begin producing composite products that fit a sustainable approach.
How did you form a market for biobased resins?
We started off with just one customer and one specific application—the John Deere body panel. Initial marketing was a push strategy (us contacting manufacturers), but over time it’s become a pull as well (people contacting us.)
What difference have you noticed within the bio composite industry?
More and more, I see that instead of pushing green technology, it’s pulling environmentally friendly product development into new areas. People care about being green and their carbon footprint. The discussion of green activities among consumers raises the awareness of sustainability and that drives opportunity in both the public and private sectors. There is also more discussion among government officials to accelerate production of environmentally friendly products.
Where is the most promise for green composite products?
I believe that building and construction holds the most promise. Right now, most architects and builders aren’t aware of what we as an industry offer. As a company, we go to building and construction and architecture expositions to educate them on what is available as well as to know what other products are out there so we stay competitive. After building and construction, we see good opportunities for material substitution in transportation, corrosion control and wind energy.
What area of the world do you see as the next open door?
Of course we want to focus on all regions of the world, but I’d say our main focus is on Brazil, Russia, India and China. When you look at the global economy the areas of accelerated growth are coming from these four, and in particular Brazil and China.
How can green composites further get its foot in the door?
The composites industry is comparatively still a young market. I think the biggest way we’ll be able to grow the market is through pushing for material substitution over products such as steel and cement. China on its own has a huge untapped market and it is growing very quickly. If composites can be established in areas such as infrastructure as China’s economy booms, that would be significant.