‘Plastic saved my son’s life’

“Plastic saved my son’s life,” Sherrie Rubin, Executive Director of the Hope2gether Foundation, told industry veteran Michael Smith, who had responded to an article warning of the dangers of plastics in the environment. When her son, Aaron, overdosed on OxyContin and fell into a coma, it was a medical plastic device that kept him alive, she explained.

medical valve Medical valve

“This small plastic valve allowed my son to breathe for nearly a month. (Plus machines, tubes and medicine) but without this valve, it would have been impossible,” Rubin told Smith. Her son was in a coma for more than three weeks, and Rubin had been planning Aaron's funeral when he began opening his eyes. 

At that point in 2005, Rubin became a parent advocate. In 2010 Rubin founded the Hope2gether Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to prevent misuse and addiction to prescription and other drugs among San Diego County youth and young adults. Smith, a talented magician, volunteers for the organization. “As an executive in the plastics industry and also a professional magician, I have been privileged to perform many times over the years for the Hope2Gether Foundation fundraising events,” said Smith.

To date, Sherrie and Aaron have delivered 840 presentations, truly making a difference in many lives. 

Aaron survived but he did not come out unscathed. Today he is a quadriplegic and a partner in his mother’s work educating youth and families about the dangers of prescription drug misuse. Caring for her son has given Rubin a new appreciation of plastics and the amazing benefits of disposable plastics in caring for a quadriplegic. 

Smith reached out to Rubin, asking her to share her perception about plastics. “Before reflecting on the value of plastics in a life-saving application, what was your previous perception of plastics and the plastics Industry?” Smith asked Rubin. 

“I never really formed a negative perception of plastics or the industry,” Rubin told Smith. “My concerns centered on the fact that some plastic materials are more difficult to recycle, such as foam packaging. Also, foam packaging is highly visible when not properly discarded. I understand responsible reuse, recycling and source reduction are major initiatives within the industry and reflect positively on self-governance.”

After her son’s tragic overdose, Rubin gained a whole new appreciation for the life-saving benefits of plastics, particularly in the healthcare segment. “The advantages of plastics in healthcare are significant,” she told Smith. “Caring for people with disabilities, plastics are a blessing. The lids, straws and cups allow us to hydrate our patients, reuse the lids and cups. Disposable plastics are extremely important in maintaining daily hygiene needs. Of course, my gratitude for the innovation and technology in plastics allowing my son to breathe during a critical time is immeasurable.”

While many who advocate against disposable or single-use plastics say that it’s only food and beverage containers they are after, we in the industry understand that the push to eliminate plastics won’t stop there. That is why the true benefits of many single-use, disposable plastics must be shared with everyone— consumers and brand-owners alike—so that the industry’s voice is heard.

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