Rethinking Recycling: Hard-to-Recycle Plastics and the Path Forward - Forward in Energy Forum

Less than 5 percent of plastics produced in the U.S. are ultimately recycled, and most of those recycled are the familiar #1 and #2 containers like soda bottles and milk jugs. Why are so many plastics difficult to recycle, what factors influence manufacturers and consumers to choose these plastics, and what can we do about it? The tradeoffs that come with hard-to-recycle packaging are often more than first meets the eye. Join us on January 30th at 4:30 pm CT for a conversation between industry experts and UW scientists for a closer look at these tradeoffs and the new recycling technologies that could address some of these economic and environmental concerns.

This event will take place both in person at the Wisconsin Energy Institute (1552 University Ave, Madison) and online via Zoom Webinar.


Travis Blomberg
Campus Resource Coordinator, Office of Sustainability, UW-Madison

Headshot of Travis Blomberg

Travis Blomberg (he/him/his) coordinates campus’ zero waste efforts. Specifically, Travis aligns sourcing/procurement practices, consumption behavior, and diversion opportunities for recoverable materials. Travis works closely with various stakeholders including, but not limited to, purchasing departments, Physical Plant, research offices, academic enterprise, Capital Planning & Development, business operations, facility and office managers, the UW System, students, student organizations, Wisconsin Union, University Athletics, University Housing, municipal governments, waste / recycling companies, suppliers, economic development councils, and community business partners.

Before joining the Office of Sustainability, Travis was the Executive Director of WasteCap Resource Solutions, an environmental nonprofit that provides waste reduction and recycling assistance to the benefit of business and the environment. Prior to that, Travis was a Sustainability Advisor for Transwestern, a commercial real estate firm, specializing in new construction LEED® certification projects and developing a water rating system for commercial buildings. Travis is an alumnus of the 2015 Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps fellowship program.


Styliani Avraamidou
Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, UW–Madison

Headshot of Styliani Avraamidou

Styliani Avraamidou is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds a MEng and a Ph.D. from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London.

She has authored or co-authored over 65 major research publications in the areas of circular economy, food-energy-water nexus, multi-level optimization, system modeling, process control, energy and systems engineering applications. She has also published one book on the area of multi-level mixed-integer optimization. She has recently been awarded the 2023 Interantional Society of Global Optimization Young Researcher Award.

Aurora Munguía López
Postdoctoral Researcher, Chemical and Biological Engineering, UW-Madison

Headshot of Aurora Munguia Lopez

Dr. Aurora del Carmen Munguía-López is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an incoming Assistant Professor (Fall 2024) in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). She holds B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from the Technical Institute of Celaya and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michoacan in Mexico. Her research interests include mathematical optimization, sustainability, social justice, and process modeling. Aurora currently participates in the Chemical Upcycling of Waste Plastics (CUWP) center, which is a multi-disciplinary center funded by the Department of Energy that aims to develop scalable technologies and solutions to mitigate plastic waste. Aurora is also passionate about fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM.

Kevin Nelson
Senior Fellow, Amcor

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Kevin Nelson is a Senior Fellow in Amcor’s Global Core R&D Group. He received a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1979 and joined The Bemis Company immediately thereafter. Throughout his career, Kevin has continued to broaden his experience with respect to the creation of high barrier flexible packaging structures. His current research focuses on understanding process/material and product/package interactions. Kevin has been awarded four Bemis President’s Awards for Outstanding Technical Achievement and is an inventor of 25 U.S. patents.

Jennifer Semrau
Waste Reduction and Diversion Coordinator, WI DNR

Headshot of Semrau

Jennifer Semrau is the Waste Reduction & Diversion Coordinator for the WI Department of Natural Resources.  In this role, Jennifer oversees the agency’s recycling and diversion related programs, including implementation of the state’s recycling law.  Prior to joining the DNR in 2016, Jennifer worked for 17 years as the Recycling Specialist for Winnebago County Solid Waste.  Jennifer is on the Board of Directors of the Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin (AROW) and the national Product Stewardship Institute.  She has a degree in Environmental Policy and Planning from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and is the proud recipient of the 2013 Christy Dixon Recycler of the Year Award.

Hybrid: WEI room 1115 and via Zoom Webinar
1552 University Ave
Madison, WI 53726