SPC Innovator Awards
The Sustainable Packaging Coalition recognizes meaningful contributions and advancements towards more sustainable packaging through the annual SPC Innovator Awards. The awards celebrate and showcase the outstanding people and organizations behind extraordinary advancements in packaging sustainability.
All winners will be given an award plaque suitable for prominent display. The SPC will coordinate publicizing the finalists and the award winners. Announcements of the award winners and their respective projects or programs will be promoted by the SPC through the SPC website and written communications such as newsletters and social media. Additionally, SPC Innovator Award Winners will have the option to develop a case study jointly with Trayak.
The SPC Innovator Awards are open for SPC members to apply.
The submission period for the 2022 SPC Innovator Awards was open from Monday, April 25th until Friday, July 8th. Submissions are now closed.
Tips for a Winning Submission
A submission is more likely to advance to the finalist stage – and be selected as a winner – of the SPC Innovator Awards if it:
- Showcases a breakthrough in its category – see past years’ winners for what was considered a novel solution in past years
- Demonstrates the use of third-party certifications, standards, and testing protocols, including but not limited to FSC, SFI, APR, How2Recycle, BPI, TUV, etc.
- Refrains from generic sustainability claims that are not reinforced by certifications (e.g. “fully recyclable”, “responsibly sourced”, “compostable”)
- Provides as much technical information as possible about the achievements of the package (e.g. spec sheets, LCA output, certification status, test results, etc.)
- While the submission may focus on improvements to primarily one category (e.g. responsible sourcing), it should not “take a step backwards” in other categories (e.g by compromising material health when reasonable alternatives are available)
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Innovation in Responsible Sourcing
Recognizing breakthroughs in the procurement and use of more sustainable materials, including new materials, improvements to conventional materials, improvements to sourcing practices, and novel uses of materials in challenging applications.
Innovation in Design Optimization
Recognizing breakthroughs in efficiency, including reductions in material usage, process improvements enabled by changes in packaging design, and improvements to volumetric/cube utilization and transportation efficiency, provided that functionality and performance are preserved or enhanced while life cycle impacts are lowered.
Innovation in Recovery
Recognizing breakthroughs in the quantity and/or quality of recovered packaging, including design improvements that enable greater compatibility with existing recovery infrastructure, enhancements to recovery programs and/or infrastructure, and partnerships to advance recovery practices and/or participation.
Innovation in Food Waste Prevention
Recognizing breakthroughs in preventing food waste through packaging design, such as improvements to product evacuation, functionality, resealability, closures, pack sizes, and ease of use; technology-based innovations such as coatings, sensors, inserts, packets, and active packaging, and/or raising consumer awareness about proper food storage.
2022 SPC Innovator Awards Winners
FinalistsHenkel: Dial Hand Soap Plastic Bank Refill Bottles Innovation in Responsible Sourcing
What it is: In 2022, Dial launched liquid and foaming hand soap refill bottles made from collected material from Plastic Bank. Plastic Bank Collectors collect plastic at beach and land, receiving bonuses for the materials they collect which helps them provide basic family necessities. The plastic is reborn as Social Plastic® and reused by Dial Refills. By using Plastic Bank sourced materials for its refill and bottles, Dial is helping to support a circular economy and is reducing the amount of virgin plastic material.
Why it matters: Dial will help save over 4.9 million pounds of carbon emissions in 2022 by using 100% PCR for its refill bottles. At the same time, the refillable model of Dial Refills reduces plastic consumption by 55% (versus an equivalent amount of 7.5 fl oz pump hand soap bottles). By sourcing material from Plastic Bank, Dial has eliminated 587 tons or 1,174,000 lbs of virgin plastic to date.Plastic Ingenuity: Plastic Ingenuity Incorporates 80% PCR into Existing Food Tray Innovation in Responsible Sourcing
What it is: Creminelli Fine Meats, a crafter of ready-to-eat charcuterie, turned to Plastic Ingenuity for a sustainability assessment of their packaging. PI proposed the use of 80% post-consumer recycled content in the tray to improve the circularity of the package and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The structure contains a barrier film that renders the package non-recyclable, however, the barrier film is an integral component for performance by providing food preservation properties. Because preserving food contents is the top priority for this type of packaging, reducing shelf-life by eliminating barrier properties is not an acceptable trade-off to improve the recyclability of a package.
Why it matters: Plastic Ingenuity determined the trays could be down-gauged to reduce material usage without compromising performance, even as the tray footprints were maintained to minimize disruptions to filling and packaging processes. The 7% reduction in material usage reduced greenhouse gas emissions without impacting shelf life.Sealed Air Corporation: Paper Bubble Mailer Innovation in Responsible Sourcing
What it is: The BUBBLE WRAP® brand paper bubble mailer is constructed with a padded bubble-shaped paper liner. Developed for curbside recyclability, the outer layer of the mailer is made from 100% recycled paper manufactured in SEE’s SFI-certified paper mills, one of which runs a 100% closed process water system. The inner bubble-shaped liner of the mailer is made from PEFC-certified virgin paper.
Why it matters: The mailer reduces the types and total quantity of packaging materials needed to deliver the product without damage. It is a ready-to-use packaging solution that provides convenience and ease of use, both to the consumer receiving and disposing of the mailer, and the person packaging the product.Returnity: Returnity Saw Nearly 100% Return Rates on Walmart’s InHome Grocery Delivery Program Pilot Innovation in Design Optimization
What it is: To eliminate single-use packaging in Walmart’s InHome Grocery Delivery Program, Returnity custom-designed a durable reusable bag and the collection and cleaning system that increased performance through tech integration and an enhanced customer experience. Over the first 8 months, Returnity reduced packaging costs over 50%, packaging emissions over 60% and saw almost 100% return rates.
Why it matters: On average, Returnity reusable packaging eliminates the use of 7.5 single-use bags per home delivery. Active grocery delivery customers purchase 2.8 times per month, and over 15 million households are frequent online grocery shoppers. Reusable bags have the potential to be used for over 500 million deliveries per year, replacing over 3 billion single use bags. By the end of 2022, Walmart plans to expand the InHome delivery service availability from 6 million to 30 million households.Clorox: Concentrate Refill Pod for Spray Products Innovation in Design Optimization
What it is: Clorox Refillable Cleaners are a line of concentrated refill pods and durable bottles/triggers. The pod design delivers 1) an intentional design for material reduction, reuse, and recyclability, 2) retains Child Resistance (CR) and, 3) maintains the cleaning performance consumers expect from Clorox. The pod is optimized for recyclability through intentional sizing and labeling considerations that enable MRF sorting and utilizes highly recoverable HDPE (EBM grade). How2Recycle has certified the packaging as curbside recyclable, as the PE closure has been designed to remain attached to the larger, sortable pod.
Why it matters: With each refill, 80% of plastic is saved compared to that of a traditional spray delivering the same amount of product. The small pods maximize truck efficiency by cubing-out each load. A full truckload can deliver 90% more finished product than a truckload of traditional sprays. The pods meet criteria for the Compact by Design badge through Amazon’s Climate Pledge program. Their small size requires less line time for production and can reduce manufacturing footprint. Universally designed with an industry-standard thread finish, the pods can also be used with common bottles and triggers.Brook + Whittle: GreenLabel BlockOut - Recyclable light-blocking shrink sleeves Innovation in Design Optimization
What it is: The GreenLabel™ BlockOut crystallizable shrink sleeve solution helps brands transition from hard-to-recycle plastics to clear PET packaging, protecting the contents with light blocking capabilities. The coating process blocks up to 100% of light from 200nm to 900nm, does not interfere with sorting equipment, and is correctly identified as PET during sortation.
Why it matters: This solution utilizes GreenLabel™ ink technology, which completely washes off ground shrink flakes during the washing process. This allows the shrink sleeve to be reclaimed with PET bottle flake, increasing recycling yield and diverting more packaging waste from landfills. All components have APR’s Critical Guidance recognition.Charter Next Generation: MBOLD Coalition Invests in MyPlas USA to drive Circular Economy Efforts in the Upper Midwest Innovation in Recovery
What it is: A coalition of companies – including Schwan’s, General Mills, Target, Ecolab combined with film manufacturer Charter Next Generation – made a joint $9.2M equity investment in MyPlas USA to support the development of a polyethylene film recycling facility in the Greater Minneapolis region. The State of Minnesota, Alliance to End Plastic Waste, and Closed Loop Partners are also supporting the efforts through grants and debt financing. MBOLD members will be encouraged to send their plastic waste to the MyPlas facility and then CNG will procure the recycled resins in their nearby Wisconsin facilities for films to be used in films for brands around the region.
Why it matters: This will not only provide capital but also support the sourcing of plastic waste feedstock and recycled PCR output from the facility. The combination of direct and indirect support is unique because it greatly de-risks investments in recycling infrastructure. Once the model proves successful, the companies are committed to helping to scale the model to new sites around the country.Georgia-Pacific: Juno® Technology - A groundbreaking solution to waste diversion and resource recovery Innovation in Recovery
What it is: Juno® has developed a breakthrough waste recycling technology that uses sanitization and separation processes to recover up to 90% of materials it processes, diverting them from landfills and incinerators. These previously unrecyclable materials, like paper fiber, plastics, and metals, are then circulated back into the economy, and the technology is able to turn food waste into renewable biogas. Specifically, the Juno process recovers paper fibers that can then be turned back into food-safe paper-based packaging. This fiber was previously destined for landfills and typically represents around 20% of the waste stream.
Why it matters: Georgia Pacific’s Certification team developed a Chain of Custody standard in conjunction with input and consultation by SCS Global. This certification tracks the fiber from Juno® through the paper mill and to certified box plants. Juno began operating the first commercial plant in Toledo, Oregon in early 2021 and has increased local landfill diversion rate by 2.8x, bringing the local community to the highest recovery rate in Oregon. Each ton of waste processed through a Juno facility represents up to a one ton net reduction CO2 emissions, estimated through the EPA WARM model using Portland, OR Metro’s 2016 waste characterization.PepsiCo: PepsiCo Compostable Snack Packaging at Coachella Music Festival Innovation in Recovery
What it is: PepsiCo designed an industrially compostable snack bag offered at the Coachella Music Festival. This is the first compostable film packaging used in an outdoor concert space which presents the unique environment of a large event (~750,000 people) combined with a natural environment where waste is prevalent and may easily be lost due to littering. This was also the first execution of compostable film packaging on a large, household brand for purchase.
Why it matters: This effort represented a successful introduction of industrial compostable packaging into a venue with dedicated collection bins, pre-testing of packaging at the event-selected composter to validate in-field performance, and specified messaging to assist consumers in waste disposal practices. By utilizing compostable snack packaging, the event was able to maintain a lower carbon footprint and expose a new demographic to this innovative packaging material.
2021 SPC Innovator Awards Winners
FinalistsCruz Foam - Compostable foam for protective packaging Innovation in Responsible Sourcing Finalist
What it is: Cruz Foam is a provider of compostable packaging solutions using novel foam materials created by harnessing the natural properties of a material called chitin. Chitin is currently made from shrimp shells from the commercial fishing industry that would otherwise end up in the landfill or dumped back into the sea. Cruz Foam works with partners who ensure responsibly sourced materials and is also considering other sustainable chitin sources such as insects, fungus, and other naturally occurring biopolymers.
Why it matters: Cruz Foam’s feedstock source creates a new market for the fishing industry’s waste while offering an alternative to non-recyclable EPS, a common pollutant. Cruz Foam has been formulated to meet the industry performance requirements for foam packaging, helping brands meet new foam regulations and improve their compliance, reputation, and potential expenses from fines and clean-up programs. The product is developed to meet ASTM standards for industrial compostability and the needs of customers specifically in the consumer electronics and appliances space, and can be sold at the same price at scale as conventional fossil fuel-based counterparts.EcoEnclose - Algae Ink Innovation in Responsible Sourcing Finalist
What it is: Algae Ink pigments are made with algae cells, which are a waste product of spirulina in nutraceutical production at Earthrise Nutritionals (California). EcoEnclose has successfully printed well over 8 million units of packaging (across various types) with algae ink onto paper-based substrates like shipping boxes, paper mailers, water-activated tape, and notecards. They are in the final stages of testing algae ink on poly-based substrates for application on thin-film, polymailers, and bubble mailers.
Why it matters: By using algae ink instead of standard carbon-black ink, the use of crude oil in the production of carbon-black pigment is prevented. The production and use of the algae ink itself is also carbon negative – more carbon is sequestered than is emitted through its production. LCA calculations estimate that the current production process generates net GHG emissions of -4.16 kg CO2-eq/kg pigment. By utilizing a waste stream, the company is building demand for an existing by-product in a growing industry.Henkel - TECHNOMELT® SUPRA ECO Innovation in Responsible Sourcing Finalist
What it is: TECHNOMELT® SUPRA ECO is a high performance hot melt adhesive with a negative cradle-to-gate carbon footprint. The formulation leverages bio-based raw materials and mass-balance to achieve up to 98% renewable content, the highest level of renewable content in a hot melt adhesive for carton and case sealing applications. One key raw material is AFFINITY™ RE, a polyolefin plastomer from Dow, produced from renewable resources and utilizing a mass-balance approach.
Why it matters: The implementation of the mass balance concept at Henkel’s and all suppliers’ manufacturing plants is currently in certification by the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC). These products deliver the same performance standards – adhesion, set speed, open time, and heat-resistance – as existing fossil fuel-based premium hot melt products while reducing the CO2 footprint of their customers’ packaging process. This range of products are also compatible with paper recycling streams.Neenah - Paper Garment Mailer Innovation in Responsible Sourcing Finalist
What it is: This mailer, designed to deliver non-fragile, soft goods like garments sold via e-commerce, is fiber-based, widely recyclable, water and tear resistant, and high-quality printable. Additional features include a duel-closer to enhance returnability, an embedded tear strip for ease of opening and a gusset design for ease of fulfillment. It uses 100% FSC-Certified pulp and 50% post-consumer waste, is made with Green-e Renewable Electricity, and is SmartWay certified.
Why it matters: Consumers increasingly demand curbside-recyclable solutions for the e-commerce packaging that arrives at their home. This mailer’s high percentage of recycled content and FSC certification ensure that it is using sustainable fiber sources for the production of the mailer, while testing through the FibreBoard Association’s voluntary standard Tier 1 test helps to ensure the product’s recyclability.Novolex - TamperVisible® HOT FILL rPET Innovation in Responsible Sourcing Finalist
What it is: TamperVisible ® Hot Fill rPET is a hot fill container available in four different material blends, including 100% recycled content. The range is made using a conditioning process which allows the rPET to withstand temperatures of up to 266 F° (130°C) while also being microwavable. The high clarity container offers color-free shelf appeal, easily-viewable food content, and tamper-evident corner snap lid access.
Why it matters: The rPET is primarily sourced from recyclers who have post-consumer waste contracts with UK and Irish councils. Sourcing, re-processing, and recycling rPET in and for UK and European markets keeps closed loop rPET as local as possible. The TamperVisible® Hot Fill rPET is up to 30% lighter than injection moulded polypropylene, which helps to keep the container’s carbon footprint lower than its polypropylene counterpart and make it lighter to transport.Berry Global - Extreme Downgauge Cereal Liner Innovation in Design Optimization Finalist
What it is: A collaboration between Kellogg Company, Berry Global, and D Thomas & Associates has achieved a 30% reduction in thickness for Kellogg’s cereal liner. This innovation is initially launching for a portion of Kellogg’s cereal, with plans to expand to other items in the future. The Berry Global package has been prequalified by How2Recycle with a Store Drop-off label, and contains some post-industrial recycled content.
Why it matters: This cereal liner represents a reduction in the amount of material used to package the same amount of product, while maintaining equivalent or better performance and shelf life. Using less material results in lower carbon emissions, waste, and energy demand. The thinner film allows for more footage per roll, which means more footage per shipment, and fewer roll changes for the packaging line.Graham Packaging - AccuStrength: Taking Lightweighting to the Next Level Innovation in Design Optimization Finalist
What it is: AccuStrength technology is redefining the blow-molding process in an effort to reduce the amount of plastic resin required per bottle while maintaining or improving the container’s performance. Currently, most extrusion blow-molded plastic bottles and containers are formed through horizontal material distribution,which maintains product integrity and load-bearing properties. However, Graham’s proprietary AccuStrength technology is an extrusion blow-molding process that uses vertical bands of material that can be adjusted to increase or decrease the bottle’s thickness in desired locations.
Why it matters: AccuStrength’s technology has produced containers that are anywhere from 5% to 15% lighter than traditional horizontal-banded bottles by strategically placing plastic only where needed to provide load-bearing reinforcement, depending on the bottle design. For example, up to approximately 11% weight savings have been seen in gallon containers. This means the technology uses less plastic overall in the production of the packaging, which also results in lighter-weight bottles that require less fuel to ship and a lower carbon footprint.HP - Advanced Molded Fiber Tooling Solution Innovation in Design Optimization Finalist
What it is: HP’s multi-jet fusion 3D print technology enables molded fiber tooling that accelerates the transition away from single-use plastics to renewable molded fiber solutions. It provides manufacturers of molded fiber products with expanded tooling capabilities for greater production efficiencies and design opportunities, such as embossing, defined markings, and advanced textures. The material used for the HP Tooling Screens is a 100% bio-based polymer made from vegetable castor oil.
Why it matters: This tooling solution enables more brands to quickly and creatively convert to fiber-based packaging by delivering quality molded fiber products faster, and reducing downtime and improving overall equipment effectiveness for manufacturers. Molded fiber can be compostable and/or recyclable, depending on the final package and application, and the enhanced design opportunities enable brands to pursue on-package labeling and consumer education.Rapid Bander Corporation - Containment alternative to pallet cornerboards and strapping Innovation in Design Optimization Finalist
What it is: This stretch film-based Rapid Roper Containment System is a less costly, more efficient ventilated alternative for perishable products. The Rapid Roper narrows bands of stretch film into 3” filaments applied in a criss-crossed pattern to provide ventilation and strength to maintain a stable unitized load. It can replace the cornerboards and strapping commonly used to provide ventilated containment for palletized produce and citrus shipments.
Why it matters: Using cornerboards and strapping involves high material and labor costs and an estimated 4-6 lbs of packaging waste per pallet. Cornerboards and strapping are also typically not recyclable. In tests conducted on a typical citrus pallet, the Rapid Roper achieved an estimated 91% reduction in packaging waste, 72% reduction in packaging material costs, 75% greater load stability, and at least 50% reduction in greenhouse gas generation through a combination of source reduction and waste stream reduction when the stretch film was recycled for use in industrial films and bags.Amcor - AmPrima PE Plus Standup Pouch for Liquid Innovation in Design Optimization Finalist
What it is: AmPrima™ PE Plus standup pouch for liquid is a polyethylene pouch that offers high barrier properties. It has been proven to run on commercial equipment and meet the necessary liquid application shelf life performance. AmPrima PE Plus is compatible with fitment insertion and sealing, which is extremely demanding in terms of heat and mechanical stress.
Why it matters: Traditionally, foil or mixed olefin structures have been utilized to meet the rigorous demands of liquid applications. AmPrima PE Plus film considers the demands of shelf stable liquids, offering high barrier levels (Oxygen Transmission 0.028 cc/100in2/day; MVTR 0.25 gr/100in2/day) in a structure that processes well on pouch making and filling equipment.ICPG - XPP Enhanced Barrier Polypropylene Rollstock for PS Replacement in Form-Fill-Seal Innovation in Food Waste Prevention Finalist
What it is: ICPG’s XPP Enhanced Barrier Polypropylene Rollstock is a mono-material polypropylene rollstock solution that offers improved barrier performance without the use of specialty barrier materials, coatings, mineral fillers or additives. XPP rollstock offers up to 90% improvement in Oxygen Transmission Rate (OTR) and Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR) barrier protection vs traditional polypropylene, and over 100/150% improvement in OTR/MVTR barrier protection vs polystyrene.
Why it matters: These improvements to barrier properties can extend shelf-life and reduce instances of food waste and spoilage. It may also allow companies to reduce or eliminate the use of additional materials typically found in barrier packaging structures, such as coatings, mineral fillers, or additives. XPP solutions are produced from PP, while comparative barrier materials such as HIPS/PVDC must be identified using RIC #7, which limits opportunities for recycling. This can result in a simplified solution for rigid thermoformed and form-fill-seal food packaging.AFP Advanced Food Products LLC - Flexline Processing System Innovation in Food Waste Prevention Finalist
What it is: The Flexline Processing System is a low-acid aseptic processing solution that helps food manufacturers create shelf-stable products with a longer shelf-life. Flexline processing provides superior taste to hot-fill applications, increasing food quality with no preservatives for cleaner labels. The completely closed sterile system minimizes food spoilage from human contact.
Why it matters:Providing shelf-stable products decreases food waste from spoilage and provides longer distribution and sales cycles. The Flexline Processing System also offers multiple pack and fill sizes for portion control based on the application, and the specially-designed cups offer better food storage performance with resealable lids and sloped sides for product evacuation.AMP Robotics - AI-Driven Collaboration Innovation in Recovery Finalist
What it is: AMP Robotics builds and deploys technology that can differentiate objects found in the waste stream by color, size, shape, opacity, brand, and more, contextualizing and storing information about each item it perceives. Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) is one CPG that has recognized and embraced AI as a tool for unlocking a more circular economy and was one of AMP’s first CPG partners. Following KDP’s conversion of its K-Cup coffee pods to polypropylene, a sought-after plastic for recycled materials, the companies worked together to equip AMP’s robotics systems to properly identify and sort K-Cup pods in recycling facilities.
Why it matters: With the help of AMP’s technology, MRFs can improve their sortation of these materials, increasing acceptance so that there is more recycled content available to put back into products. AI and machine learning enable the robotic sorting of material as granular as a type of plastic at a pick rate of upwards of 80 items per minute—more than two times as fast as human sorters, and with greater accuracy and consistency.Dart - Marine Debris Prevention Innovation in Recovery Finalist
What it is: Marinas and municipalities across the US and Canada can stop litter from entering coastal and inland waterways and reduce marine debris through a new $100,000 grant program sponsored by Dart Container Corporation. The grant funds the purchase and installation of UltraTech International’s patented Ultra-Drain Guard stormwater management products, which stop litter, oil and sediment from entering waterways via storm drains.
Why it matters: Approximately 80% of stormwater drains flow directly into a body of water without treatment, and the funded devices can help tackle pollution coming from drains. In a single pilot program, the Ultra-Guard stormwater management devices successfully collected approximately 1,250 pounds of litter in Southern California. This grant program is a pilot with plans for expansion in coming years.Sustana - Recovered food and beverage containers made into new fiber Innovation in Recovery Finalist
What it is: Sustana Fiber, specializing in the manufacturing of recycled fiber from recovered paper materials, has partnered with Société VIA, a company that specializes in the sorting and recovery of recycled materials, to recover multi-layer food and beverage containers to be recycled locally through the Sustana Fiber initiative. Sustana is currently evaluating an expansion project that would allow it to recycle 15,000 tons per year, compared to the current 4,000 tons.
Why it matters: The fibers contained in multi-layer containers are a renewable resource with a great potential for recovery. With the decrease in the quantities of paper available for recycling, Sustana’s search for alternative sources of paper material, such as multi-layer boards, is critical for continuing to build the circular economy. By using a local supply of material, Sustana Fiber is helping to reduce the transportation and greenhouse gas emissions for these types of recovered paper products, which had been previously exported.The HC Companies - Recovery and Reuse of Corrugated Packaging Material and Wastewater Innovation in Recovery Finalist
What it is: HC is incorporating corrugate sourced internally from one of their largest facilities to produce fiber roll cradles that can be substituted as a more sustainable option to EPS. Previously, each facility submitted their corrugate for recycling. Now, the Burlington plant reuses this corrugate for producing the company’s fiber roll cradles. The cradles are made with a slurry comprised of post-industrial paper, post-consumer paper, internally repurposed corrugate and water from a closed loop system, which eliminates wastewater discharge and lowers energy consumption.
Why it matters: By utilizing material that would otherwise go for recycling or scrap, HC Companies is giving the material new life internally. This new system, without compromising quality or performance, can also mitigate supply risk and provide stable material costs, and optimize freight. The incorporation of the closed-loop corrugate offers superior cushioning properties due to the structure of the elongated fibers which strengthens the product.
2020 SPC Innovator Awards Winners
FinalistsCascades - 100% Recycled Thermoformed Cardboard Tray Innovation in Responsible Sourcing
What it is: Cascades has introduced a new thermoformed cardboard tray for fresh fruits and vegetables made of 100% recycled fiber with FDA certification. These cardboard trays are approved for direct food contact by the FDA and Health Canada, and include a patented barrier layer that is plastic-free and free of fluorinated substances, which adds design-for-recycling elements.
Why it matters: As paper-based alternatives march forward, Cascades has made a meaningful contribution not by creating another paper-based design, but by creating a paper-based design that features important tenets of responsible sourcing. Their prioritization of post-consumer recycled content and eschewing of PFAS/PFOA-based barrier layers is an acknowledgment that no matter the type of material being used, there are always extra steps that can be taken to create a robust story and address multiple considerations in sustainable packaging.
Learn more link: https://www.cascades-sonoco.com/coatings-lamination/surfshield
delfort - Reinventing Children’s Straws Innovation in Responsible Sourcing
What it is: This innovation is the product of a true collaboration between three companies: delfort, Tembo, and Henkel, resulting in a new portfolio of paper-based straw designs that offers significant advancements over many of the other paper-based straw designs on the market. Using delfort’s paper, Henkel’s adhesive, and Tembo’s converting processes, these straws are less than three quarters of a centimeter in wall thickness in a production process that generates less than 5% manufacturing waste.
Why it matters: Paper-based straws should no longer be considered a novel idea, but these designs address the well-known deficiencies of most established paper-based designs. This portfolio of straw designs is aimed at functionality, with designs that telescope and bend, advanced water resistance attributes, durability, and the stiffness required to puncture children’s drink boxes.Domtar - Paper Freezer Pack Innovation in Responsible Sourcing
What it is: Domtar has developeda fiber-based alternative to conventional freezer gel packs, with the majority comprised of forest-derived fiber – including paper, tissue, and fluff pulp – along with a small amount of suberabsorbent polymer used to absorb and retain the water that, once frozen, provides cooling properties. Domtar’s preliminary in-house testing results have shown minimal condensation, no leakage, and temperature-holding properties similar to conventional options.
Why it matters: This design challenges many preconceived notions of what’s possible with paper packaging. For all of paper’s useful qualities, providing a superior moisture barrier has always been thought of as one thing paper simply cannot do as well as other materials. Domtar’s freezer pack demonstrates that paper can do more than simply provide some moisture resistance – if success can be found in the variable-temperature environments that are typical of cold chain applications, there’s no telling what else is possible.
Learn more link: https://www.domtar.com/en/paper-freezer-packMichigan State University - PFAS-Free Water and Oil Resistant Paper Innovation in Responsible Sourcing
What it is: Michigan State University developed a new coating technology aimed at the sizable number of paper product applications that require moisture and/or oil resistance, which is a space typically dominated by fluorinated coatings and plastic coatings. MSU’s new technology involves a dual-layer coating of starch and zein (the principle protein of corn) to replace those conventional coatings, with lab test results showing a favorable moisture barrier and excellent oil barrier properties.
Learn more link: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.iecr.0c01291
Why it matters: PFAS has been in the crosshairs for years now and its toxicity concerns have become widespread, yet many companies continue to be challenged to find an alternative with comparable performance properties and a more attractive sustainability story. Too often, when a substance’s toxicity concerns are elevated, industry turns to a slightly varied chemistry of the same substance, only to later learn that the new substance raises similar toxicity concerns. MSU’s technology is wholly different from the family of fluorinated substances and uses simple bio-based materials in a sophisticated way, showing that addressing a problem by starting from scratch can yield impressive results.Nature Fresh Farm Sales - PLA Wrap for English Cucumbers Innovation in Responsible Sourcing
What it is: Nature Fresh Farms replaced the conventional polyethylene wrapping on English cucumbers with a new starch-based PLA wrapping. The new wrap design carries TUV’s certification for home compostability and addresses the use of conventional PLU stickers – which would otherwise compromise the compostability of the wrap – by using a pre-printed PLU graphic with compostable ink.
Why it matters: Nature Fresh Farms has recognized that the shelf life extension of cucumbers is worth the environmental impacts of plastic wrapping, but this advancement demonstrates the mindset that “lesser of two evils” isn’t enough. This new application for bio-based plastic includes non-GMO cornstarch feedstocks and attention to detail with the use of compostable inks, showing thoughtfulness and acknowledgement that packaging can always be improved even when it’s already doing its job of reducing net environmental impacts of the product/package system.WestRock - Spruce™ Protein Tray Innovation in Responsible Sourcing
What it is: WestRock’s Spruce™ protein tray is a thermoformed paperboard tray engineered for chilled, case-ready and overwrapped meats. It is made from WestRock’s uncoated TruServ® Pressed Tray paperboard and a plant-based barrier coating. Compared to comparable trays made from polypropylene, WestRock’s new tray incurs 65% less mineral and fuel resource consumption and 30% less water consumption.
Why it matters: As the marketplace increasingly turns towards alternatives to conventional packaging designs, this is another exemplary innovation made by the enterprising paper industry. WestRock found a way to create a paper-based design that provides the structural and barrier properties of a packaging application that hasn’t undergone significant design change in decades, laying down a firm challenge to the status quo. The bio-based barrier coating is a nice touch!
Learn more link: https://www.westrock.com/products/paperboard/truserv-pressed-trayAllied Packaging Corporation - Rapid Bander Innovation in Design Optimization
What it is: Allied Packaging Corporation created a novel process for load stretch wrapping with Rapid Bander, their patented device that retrofits to existing stretch wrapping machinery and uses two rolls of film – one full web, one banded – to leverage a combination performance properties that allows pronounced reductions in overall stretch material usage.
Why it matters: This innovation is a clever example of using the right type of material in the right place in order to achieve more performance with less packaging. It’s generally regarded as counterintuitive to make a sustainability gain by increasing the number of materials used, but many advancements require counterintuitive thinking and this is one of them. By decreasing the net amount of material used by upwards of 50%, Allied Packaging Corporation’s invention enables meaningful reductions of stretch material, which has added importance since this packaging type has a challenging path to circularity but is recognized as a necessity in product containment.Liquibox — Liquipure ultra bag-in-box Innovation in Design Optimization
What it is: Liquibox tackled the presence of the nylon barrier layer in bags for soft drink concentrates and engineered a way to simplify a packaging structure without compromising product shelf life or packaging performance properties. By using a coextruded polyethylene structure, Liquibox entirely eliminated the nylon layer entirely and created a mono-material film that does the job with 21% less greenhouse gas emissions and additional strides made in reducing fossil resource consumption and water consumption.
Why it matters: This is a new step in the long march of innovations that reduce the need for additional layers on polyethylene structures, and demonstrates that this trajectory is far from its plateau. When mono-material designs perform comparably and can be demonstrated to reduce life cycle impacts, it’s always a step in the right direction, not only for the virtue of material reduction in itself, but also to move towards greater compatibility with recycling systems.
Learn more link:
https://www.liquibox.com/liquipure-ultraOtter Products - OtterBox Mobile Case Packaging Redesign Innovation in Design Optimization
What it is: Otter Products undertook an extensive packaging redesign for its premium protective mobile cases and emerged with a new paper-based design that results in significant sustainability gains. The new design weighs half as much as the previous design, increased pallet efficiency by 38% through volumetric efficiency, and resulted in overall packaging cost reductions.
Why it matters: Any time a package redesign results in a 50% reduction in material weight, it’s a significant advancement. This redesign is notable because it combines several elements of optimization – in addition to material efficiency and volumetric efficiency, there are gains in simplicity, owing to the mono-material paper-based structure. Achieving such pronounced gains in weight and volumetric efficiency without involving multiple material types is impressive.WestRock - BioPak Protect™ Innovation in Design Optimization
What it is: WestRock developed and brought to market a new to-go foodservice container with a simplistic structure, surprising functionality, and responsiveness to new market needs. WestRock’s BioPak ProtectTM is a durable paper-based container with a clever tamper evidence function, an anti-fog film window beneath a brandable top flap, and a grease and moisture barrier that is free of fluorinated substances.
Why it matters: As boxed meals gain prevalence in an environment of heightened concerns around hygiene and safety, WestRock responded with a highly functional new design that is as notable for its sophistication as it is for its simplicity, providing a combination of performance features with a design that is devoid of fussiness.
Learn more link: https://www.westrock.com/products/folding-cartons/bio-pak-protectWestRock - BoxSizer® Innovation in Design Optimization
What it is: WestRock’s new stand-alone e-commerce packaging machine dynamically right-sizes corrugated boxes using multiple pre-loaded box footprints. After measuring the outside dimensions and the internal void space of each loaded box, it then adjusts itself to cut, crease, fold, close, and seal the packaging.
Why it matters: Oversized shipping boxes elicit a visceral negative reaction and represent one of the most widely recognized challenges in sustainable packaging. By leveraging new gains in sensor technology and machine learning, WestRock’s new technology is positioned to create marked increases in volumetric efficiency, reductions in void fill requirements, and address the visceral challenge of overboxing.
Learn more link: https://www.westrock.com/boxsizerColgate Palmolive Company - Recyclable Tube Development and Commercialization Innovation in Recovery
What it is: Colgate Palmolive created a new squeezable tube design that is constructed of polyethylene and EVOH, challenging the conventional wisdom of tube design that applied multiple polymer types in various areas for structural integrity and performance. This simplification of the packaging structure has been recognized by the Association of Plastic Recyclers and Plastics Recyclers Europe for its compatibility with polyethylene reclamation processes, and Colgate Palmolive has successfully brought it to market in their Tom’s of Maine brand.
Why it matters: This new tube design represents an important first step in changing the paradigm for an entire category of non recyclable packaging. By freely sharing this technology with the market, Colgate Palmolive is encouraging a scaled shift aimed at a future in which squeezable tubes are considered a recyclable type of packaging. Developing the new tube design required a substantive collaboration with Colgate’s supply chain partners and has led to more collaboration between brand competitors, which will always deserve recognition.INX International Ink Co. - Genesis GS Washable Inks Innovation in Recovery
What it is: INX International Ink Co. developed a gravure solvent ink system that is drinkable from shrinkable cPET films and floatable with roll-fed OPP labels in the recycling process. This new washable ink has been recognized by the Association of Plastic Recyclers in accordance with their testing protocol for washable and recyclable PET shrink sleeve applications.
Why it matters: A significant percentage of PET containers that enter the recycling system have design features that either prevent them from finishing their journey due to incompatibilities with PET reclamation processes, or result in significant lowering of the quality of recycled PET, which constricts its opportunities for use in new packaging. INX’s new ink is an important piece of the solution, and they’ve taken care to ensure that the performance and aesthetic properties have been preserved so that compromises don’t need to be made.
Learn more link: https://www.inxinternational.com/news/04-24-2020Rieke Packaging - Mono-2e Single Material Dispensing Pump Innovation in Recovery
What it is: Rieke departed from the conventional pump design of 11 individual components made from multiple materials and arrived at a new pump design made from one material of identical grade polypropylene and just six components. In addition to representing an important advancement in design-for-recycling, it also carries a 60% reduction in carbon footprint, can incorporate up to 60% PCR, and is Amazon ISTA-6 approved against leakages in transit.
Why it matters: Conventional pump designs rely on a metal spring, which is a small component that can create big problems in plastic reclamation processes. Removing metal components from sprayers and pumps has long been high on the list of needed design-for-recyclability innovations, and while significant progress has been made with sprayers, Rieke’s new design is the first significant action to address pumps.
Learn more link: https://www.riekepackaging.com/Sustana Group - Recycling Used Label Liner into New Label Face Stock Innovation in Recovery
What it is: Sustana Fiber and UPM Raflatac have launched the first paper label concept consisting of a face stock containing recycled fiber from waste label liners. The recycled label face stock contains up to 30% recycled fiber made by Sustana Fiber from waste label liner collected by UPM Raflatac’s RafCycle™ service and other mixed paper waste collection streams.
Why it matters: This new recycling system simultaneously addresses a largely untapped waste stream and enhances the sourcing characteristics for a packaging type that has largely not received the attention it deserves, and shows what’s possible when SPC member companies enter into a productive collaboration with shared goals and a leveraged synergy.US Postal Service - Undeliverable Marketing Mail Recycling Program Innovation in Recovery
What it is: Over 200,000 tons of undeliverable marketing mail is generated each year between 32,000 USPS facilities, and a new USPS program is now collecting and recycling that previously untapped waste stream. By leveraging reverse logistics capabilities, millions of pounds of paper are consolidated in 220 hub sites and sent out for recycling, resulting in a sizable reduction in waste and a meaningful new stream of recycled fiber.
Why it matters: This advancement is impressive for the amount of tonnage diverted from landfill alone, but more notable in the sense that it creates a needle-moving amount of new recycled fiber with unique characteristics derived from the uniqueness of the feedstock stream. The US Postal Service deserves credit for partnering with Western Michigan University to better understand the pulping characteristics of undeliverable marketing mail and the qualities of the resulting recycled fiber, potentially creating a new feedstock source for packaging.WestRock - “Don’t Trash the Box” Campaign Innovation in Recovery
What it is: WestRock has undertaken a significant initiative to understand and encourage pizza box recycling with a robust approach involving several collaborations. WestRock started by commissioning research to better understand the acceptance of pizza boxes in community recycling programs while conducting internal research to resolve concerns around the technical impacts of grease residue on repulping operations. Once the conclusions of their internal research were reviewed and endorsed by the American Forest & Paper Association, WestRock partnered with Domino’s and Pratt to commission The Recycling Partnership to conduct community research and outreach, resulting in a toolkit for recycling program coordinators, a Domino’s-hosted Pizza Box Recycling Portal, and future plans to build more resources and change the narrative on pizza box recycling.
Why it matters: This initiative is most impressive for the breadth of stakeholders involved and WestRock’s role of putting together all the pieces in the appropriate way. Creating a consumer messaging campaign is not a novel idea, but backing the assertions of that campaign with credible research in the relevant areas of the recycling process and involving stakeholders from the NGO community and each segment of the supply chain can be a challenging undertaking and WestRock deserves credit for finding success.
Learn more link: https://recycling.dominos.com/
2020 SPC Innovator Awards
2019 SPC Innovator Awards Winners
FinalistsEnvision Plastics & Crown Poly: Oceanbound Plastic Reusable Bag Innovation in Responsible Sourcing finalist
Envision Plastics and Crown Poly worked together to design a plastic shopping bag that incorporates up to 40% OceanBound plastic, which is collected from “at risk” zones like Haiti before it risks entering waterways. The bag meets California requirements for thickness and postconsumer recycled content.
Why it’s important: Using postconsumer recycled content is always an important means of providing “pull through” on our recycling systems, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and decoupling plastic packaging from virgin plastic feedstocks. Using Envision Plastic’s OceanBound plastic y encourage plastics recycling in regions where it’s needed most. Incorporating any postconsumer recycled content in thin films can be a challenging undertaking, so Envision Plastics and Crown Poly deserve credit for making it happen!
Original submission: “Crown Poly-Envision Plastic Oceanbound Plastic Reuseable Bag”
What impact on sustainable packaging has your submission made?
Reusable bags in California are required to have 20% PCR content in them and 40% PCR content by 2020. Crown Poly has taken this mandate to the next level, by partnering with Envision Plastics to use Oceanbound Plastic as our PCR content in Hippo Sak Oceanbound Plastic Reusable Bags. Oceanbound plastic is plastic from “at risk” zones like Haiti that is collected and diverted that would otherwise go into our ocean. These “at risk” coastal zones, primarily in third world countries, contribute an estimated 12 million metric tons of plastic waste to our oceans each year. Crown Poly Oceanbound Plastic Reusable Bag is not only reducing bag usage by being a reusable grocery bag, but is reducing the amount of plastic going into our ocean. As much as consumers understand Recycled Content, and as much as Post Consumer Recycled Content is conceptually understood as well, a real solution to the Plastic Pollution problem is happening with Crown Poly Reusable Bag with Oceanbound Plastic. It is simple for shoppers to understand, and it is a positive real solution for our industry.Seventh Generation: Flip Top Closure Made with 100% Postconsumer Recycled Polypropylene Innovation in Responsible Sourcing finalist
Seventh Generation introduced a flip top closure made entirely of postconsumer recycled polypropylene that exceeded their performance requirements for hinge testing, dispensing performance, drop testing, distribution testing, and leak testing, gaining important progress towards their 2020 goal of eliminating virgin fossil-based plastic in packaging.
Why it’s important: Hinges can be an intimidating design feature when considering the use of postconsumer recycled polypropylene, since postconsumer recycled polypropylene can be more brittle than its conventional counterpart. Seventh Generation and supply chain partners TricorBraun and Envision Plastics worked together to make adjustments and navigate the issues, proving that design challenges can be overcome and functional hinged closures can be created from 100% postconsumer recycled polypropylene.
Original submission: “Small Dose, Big Clean”
What impact on sustainable packaging has your submission made?
Seventh Generation is closing in on achieving their 2020 goal to ensure that every one of their packaging components are virgin petroleum free and recyclable. Our most recent innovation has been a dish cap that is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, excluding colorant, and can be left on the bottle making it recyclable. Our initial project goal was to eliminate virgin petroleum, address consumer preferences and be sure that the functionality still met expected performance standards. To ensure success, it was critical that we were designing for 100% PCR from the start. With any innovation, there are adjustments to be made along the way but both TricorBraun & Envision Plastics brought solutions to issues at hand to continue to drive the project forward. TricorBraun and Seventh Generation conducted testing that included stringent drop testing, leak testing without a liner, orifice testing for optimal dispensing, distribution testing and hinge testing that took the standard number of uses above and beyond the norm. No one expected the performance we received with this material. With the launch of this PCR closure we are annually eliminating 40 tons of virgin material.UPM Raflatac: VanishTM Clear Film Labels with 90% Recycled Content Face and Liners Innovation in Responsible Sourcing finalist
UPM Raflatac introduced the first globally available labels with high levels of recycled content. Both the labels and liners are made using up to 90% recycled PET while preserving the “no look” aesthetic characteristics expected by the brands.
Why it’s important: Most conversations about recycled content in packaging focus on the primary substrate, with little attention paid to the sourcing considerations surrounding decorations and ancillary treatments. UPM Raflatac deserves credit for strengthening the market for recycled PET and broadening the options for brand owners seeking to use recycled content in packaging.
Original submission: “The Clear Sustainable Choice – UPM Raflatac Vanish PCR”
What impact on sustainable packaging has this submission made?
As part of UPM, we have a strong commitment to innovation and continually strive to create sustainable products. Our new UPMRaflatac Vanish™ PCR range of ultra-thin clear film products are the industry’s first globally available constructions to use post-consumer recycled (PCR) content in both the face stock and liner. This range is redefining UPM Raflatac’s role in the circular economy and strengthening our commitment to the environment. Ideal for labeling rigid substrates in a variety of end uses, the Vanish™ PCR range offers the same clarity, performance and premium no-label look as our original Vanish™ products, but with an ecodesign that provides label converters and end-users with a sustainable choice. Rather than pulling finite resources from our planet, our 90% recycled content face stocks and liners utilize recycled PET flakes collected from the PET bottle and container recycling process. With the Vanish™ PCR range, we are reducing our virgin fossil feedstock reliance and optimizing sustainable solutions for global printers and brand owners.Envision Plastics: Food Grade Postconsumer Recycled Gaylord Liners Innovation in Responsible Sourcing finalist
Envision Plastics partnered with bag manufacturer Multiplast Systems, Inc. to create new gaylord liners using up to 40% of Envision Plastics’ EcoPrimeTM line of postconsumer recycled HDPE. The gaylord liners are suitable for direct food contact applications and have helped Envision Plastics make progress as a participant in APR’s Recycling Demand Champions program.
Why it’s important: When a customer purchases recycled resin from Envision Plastics, it can be packaged in a liner that also uses recycled resin! Moreover, there is growing emphasis placed on the use of postconsumer recycled plastics in transport packaging and other “back of house” applications where aesthetic requirements are less stringent and variability in performance characteristics can be more easily accommodated. These gaylord liners are a perfect example of the type of application that can be scaled to provide meaningful demand to strengthen our recycling systems.
Original submission: “25% PCR Mailer”
What impact on sustainable packaging has this submission made?
Inspired by the APR Demand Champion program, Envision Plastics looked to add more PCR into our internal packaging. We partnered with Multiplast Systems Inc. to create a food grade Gaylord Liner using our very own EcoPrime. EcoPrime is natural colored, post-consumer HDPE made primarily from recycled milk, juice and water jugs that can be used at up to 100% in direct food contact applications. Multiplast Systems Inc. was successfully able to replace nearly 40% of the virgin plastic with EcoPrime into our Gaylord liners. Envision Plastics is now using this food grade Gaylord liner with 40% PCR content exclusively at both of our recycling plants. To further the sustainable attributes of these pcr liners, we are experimenting with light weighting and are seeing encouraging results with liners that use 20% less plastic. Envision Plastics and Multiplast Systems Inc. invite all companies to make this seamless switch to these Gaylord liners. This innovation is available today in the market for all to use. Additionally, this project has paved the way for an abundance of other innovations including high quality converter grade film for diapers and paper goods packaging for Seventh Generation.Annie’s Homegrown: 35% Postconsumer Recycled Cereal Liner & Education Graphic Innovation in Responsible Sourcing finalist
Annie’s Homegrown and supply chain partner Charter NEX worked together to develop a new cereal liner that uses at least 35% postconsumer recycled HDPE and is suitable for direct food contact. The Annie’s Friends cereal box includes special consumer-facing messaging around the use of recycled content.
Why it’s important: Any company who successfully navigates the challenges surrounding the use of postconsumer recycled content in film applications deserves credit, and this is no exception. What makes this extraordinary, however, is the prominent marketing message, which broadens consumer engagement in recycling by reminding them that the use of recycled content is enabled by their participation in recycling. Although postconsumer recycled content is widely used in plastic packaging, proud marketing claims are far too rare, and Annie’s deserves credit for giving it the spotlight!
Original submission: “Annie’s Friend’s Cereal: 35% Post-Consumer Recycled Content HDPE Cereal Liner & Education Graphic”
What impact on sustainable packaging has this submission made?
Annie’s Launched a new SKU in Dec 2018 as a line extension to our Cereal Portfolio. The new ‘Friend’s’ Cereal, a delicious blend of cocoa, honey and vanilla bunny shaped oat, corn and rice cereal had a new innovative cereal liner. This cereal liner developed closely with Charter NEX was made from at least 35% post-consumer recycled content PE. This HDPE film is in direct food contact with the cereal and is truly a huge advancement in the drive to find end markets for recycled polymers. The project was ~1 year in the making and required extensive testing to develop the BEST high qualify & high-performance specification. Annie’s is committed to proving that there is demand for this stream of recycling. Food packaging can exist in a technical closed loop system when it makes sense. In my opinion the best part of this package is how creatively the Annie’s team was in messaging this innovation. The entire back of the cereal box (which are the most read food packaging) is devoted to explaining the benefits of recycling materials & and how our cereal bag liner is partially made from 35% post-consumer recycled plastic from things you recycle like plastic milk jugs. Milk from milk jugs & cereal- the perfect combination! On the back 3 bunny friends sort their recycling by type of packaging and explain how to use the how2recycle logo to find the best end of life for your packaging. Thank You to the whole team!Plastilene Group: Micro-Foaming Technology in Flexible Co-Extrusion Blown Films Innovation in Design Optimization finalist
In collaboration with MuCell Extrusion LLC and the Dow Chemical Company, Plastilene Group has brought to market a new application for an innovative technology. Plastilene is manufacturing flexible plastic packaging with 18% less overall density by injecting nitrogen in the core layer of co-extrusion blown films, enabling a significant decrease in the amount of material used to make high performance packaging.
Why it’s important: This technology had been proven in rigid applications, but finding a way to make it work in thin films shows that material-efficient packaging formats can become even more material-efficient, pushing the frontier of doing more with less.
Original submission: “Microfoaming Technology in Flexible Co-Extrusion Blown Films”
What impact on sustainable packaging has this submission made?
Since 2014 Plastilene Group signed a licensee agreement with MuCell Extrusion LLC to develop the high density foam technology (HDFT) in thermoplastic extrusion processes. The above mentioned technology has been used in different applications such as food flexible packaging, industrial flexible packaging, agricultural films, paper replacement, rigid rPET packaging among others, with the cooperation of Dow Chemical for the flexible applications. Most of them are already commercialized and Plastilene has been developing different conversion technologies to enhance the use of HDFT. An important saving of raw materials consumption is achieved by an average reduction of 18% in overall density. It is made by the injection of nitrogen (N2), in the core layer of coextrusion blow films in the molten state of the polymer at super-critical thermodynamic process conditions. The first mass and commercial application of HDFT in Colombia was developed during 2016 by Plastilene Group for secondary flexible packaging of Familia Group hygienic products. The life cycle impact assessment of this particular development was made by using Umberto software tool, with Ecoinvent databases showing reductions in the following categories: -18% on ecosystem impact, -16% on health impact and -18% on resources depletion. Similar environmental results are applicable to the rest of the micro foaming developed products. By the end of 2018 Plastilene Group will complete more than 500 tons sold with this innovative and sustainable technology. In addition to the environmental positive impacts, the cost/benefit balance has been yielding profits for the chain value.Sealed Air: StealthWrap Innovation in Design Optimization finalist
Sealed Air recently introduced a new substitute for corrugated shippers in e-commerce channels with StealthWrap, a right-sized outer packaging solution that uses an optimized amount of thin film to protect and conceal products for shipment.
Why it’s important: Although many products are packaged in boxes that are sturdy enough for e-commerce shipping, an outer package is still required to provide a palette for labels and shipping information and to conceal the product information, which usually leads to the “box in box” solution that often requires the use of an oversized corrugated shipper with protective dunnage. StealthWrap provides an option that enables significant gains in volumetric efficiency, which is important to improve transportation impacts, in addition to significant reductions in material usage.
Original submission: “Renewable Bio-Based Polyethylene Foam for Sustainable Protective Packaging Applications”
What impact on sustainable packaging has this submission made?
In the current packaging world, consumers have become accustomed to receiving a box within a box, and while the material waste and inefficiency of nested cartoning is evident, it has long been the only method available to provide adequate protection for the item in its original packaging. The shipped outer box is often a standard large size which causes it to be expensive to ship due to its higher dimensional weight. Further, the extra box and unnecessary packaging materials packed inside the outer box can result in huge materials waste, higher labor costs, and higher fuel cost which lead to environmental concerns. There is a great need for a new technology which is more efficient and can offer strong packaging performance for damage reduction with good sustainability benefits. The high-performance capabilities of StealthWrapTM can truly eliminate a significant amount of corrugated cartons from the global supply chain, bringing unprecedented simplicity, sustainability, and cost efficiency to retailers, large-scale fulfillment operations, and third-party logistics providers.Blue Apron: Improvements to Meal Kit Packaging Systems Innovation in Design Optimization finalist
Blue Apron used innovative design thinking to reconfigure its packaging system and enable gel packs to be placed on top of the meal kit ingredients, allowing a 20% reduction in the amount of gel packs used. A redesign of the outer corrugated shipper resulted in a similar reduction of 20%.
Why it’s important: Meal kit packaging tends to require significant amounts of insulation, refrigerant gel packs, and corrugate in order to safely deliver ingredients. By going beyond conventional design optimization practices of downgauging and material substitution and using design thinking, Blue Apron was able to target two of the packaging system’s “hot spots” (no pun intended) and make significant improvements. Blue Apron also deserves bonus points for using new drain safe refrigerant in gel packs, recycled PET in trays and lids, and recyclable polyethylene films!
Original submission: “Sustainable Packaging Improvements in the Meal Kit Industry”
What impact on sustainable packaging has this submission made?
I am the head of packaging engineering at Blue Apron and responsible for the design, engineering, validation and implementation of all packaging. During my tenure at Blue apron, I have made significant improvements in packaging that lead to sustainability improvements. I am listing few examples below:
Seydel Companies: Biowax Alternatives to Paraffin Wax Innovation in Recovery finalist
- Reduced ice pack quantity: Designed a packaging system for meal kits to hold ice on top of ingredients which eventually reduced the ice pack quantity by 20% (patent pending).
- Box optimization: Redesigned corrugated box format to reduce its blank size by 20%.
- Gel packs: Implemented drain safe gel packs in our meal kits. Gel packs is the biggest driver for landfill waste in the cold chain industry. This change has made a significant dent in the product LCA.
- Retail trays: Designed a unique molded pulp tray for Blue Apron’s retail offering consisting of a compostable tray and RPET lid (picture attached). The design is patent pending.
- Recyclable PE films: Designed a unique all polyethylene film that can run on a VFFS equipped with a high speed hot air sealing mechanism. We were the first one in the industry to solve this.
- RPET trays: Designed and implemented all RPET trays for small ingredient portions.
The Chemol Company, a division of the Seydel Companies, has developed and commercialized a range of bio-based coatings intended as alternatives to conventional paraffin wax coatings used on corrugate. These coatings are primarily derived from animal fats and vegetable oils, perform similar in terms of moisture resistance, and have are proven to not inhibit corrugate recycling.
Why it’s important: Conventional parrafin wax coatings can be enormously disruptive to paper recycling. Most recycled paper mills cannot repulp corrugated products with paraffin wax coatings, but in addition to rendering the coated item unrecyclable, paraffin wax tends to persist through the paper recycling process, infiltrating equipment and causing processing downtime and losses of other recovered fibers. Every improvement to wax-coated corrugate is an improvement to the entire paper recycling stream.
Original submission: “Biowax Alternative to Replace Paraffin Waxes”
What impact on sustainable packaging has this submission made?
Since 2007, Chemol Company, division of The Seydel Companies, has developed and supplied biowax-based coatings that can be substituted for paraffin waxes on corrugated boxes. The use of these new coatings allows corrugated boxes to be recycled rather than landfilled. Biowax alternative waxes produced from animal fats and vegetable oils perform similarly to paraffin with respect to water resistance and wet strength; biowax coated boxes are more degradable and do not interfere with box recycling and fiber recovery. The biowax is similar to soywax used in soy candles, and has been developed for all three wax application methods: impregnation, cascade and curtain coat. Fiber in landfills eventually generates methane, a greenhouse gas, estimated to have 22 – 27 times the greenhouse effect of CO2. Life Cycle Associates has estimated that when fiber boxes are diverted from landfills to recycling, the one-time effect is equal to 0.965 metric tons of GHG reductions (CO2e or CO2 equivalents) for every metric ton of fiber. When fully utilized, virgin fiber can be recycled approximately 5 – 7 times to the actual effect may be as high as 5 metric tons of CO2e reduction for every one metric ton of fiber box recycled.WestRock: Advancements in Foodservice Packaging Recycling Innovation in Recovery finalist
WestRock has undertaken a number of significant initiatives aimed at achieving wholesale change in the relationship between foodservice paper packaging and the recycling system. On the packaging design front, WestRock has developed and commercialized bleached and natural kraft substrates with novel coatings feautinrg improved repulpability, and they have also developed a new cupstock that was recognized as a winner in the NextGen Cup Challenge. On the recycling front, WestRock has conducted a comprehensive mill trial to demonstrate the compatibility of coated paper foodservice packaging with paper recycling, and they have begun accepting paper foodservice packaging in eight of their recycled paperboard mills and two of their owned material recovery facilities.
Why it’s important: WestRock is in a unique position of serving as a major supplier of paper foodservice packaging and a major recycler of used paper packaging, and they are leveraging both their scale and role. Advancements in packaging design don’t always equate to increases in recycling, and changes in recycling program acceptance don’t always spur packaging design improvements, so WestRock has attacked the challenges surrounding paper foodservice packaging from upstream and downstream angles, truly “walking the walk” by changing their own recycling systems to demonstrate compatibility with the products they manufacture.
Original submission: “Advancements in Foodservice Packaging Recycling”
What impact on sustainable packaging has your submission made?
Over 100 billion paper based foodservice packages are discarded in the US each year (Technomic 2016 Foodservice Packaging Report). Historically, this packaging has not been accepted in recycling programs due to concerns over polymer coatings and food contamination. WestRock’s leadership and comprehensive efforts to increase consumer access to, and recovery of, paper-based foodservice packaging merit recognition. These efforts were made in close partnership with our supply chain partners and have led to significant progress in the recovery of foodservice packaging; they include:
Sustana: Cup-to-Cup Recycling Demonstration Project Innovation in Recovery finalist
- Demonstrated the technical recyclability of poly coated foodservice packaging through a comprehensive Mill trial. Trial results have been publicized across the industry via meeting and conference presentations (AF&PA, TAPPI and SPC) and recycling industry news publications.
- Began accepting foodservice packaging at two WestRock Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) that provide residential single stream service for the cities of Chattanooga, TN and Louisville, KY. Partnered with Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) to implement the “Community Partnership” programs which include communication and education components to enhance participation and address potential food contamination concerns.
- Announced the acceptance of foodservice packaging at eight 100% recycled paperboard mills and are working to add foodservice packaging to the residential mixed paper collections in the surrounding communities that provide fiber to these papermills.
- Leader in recyclable barrier coatings for foodservice packaging, including commercially available EnShield bleached and natural kraft, A WestRock recyclable cupstock (not yet commercialized) is under consideration in the NextGen Cup Challenge.
Sustana’s repulping technology is able to process paper cups with conventional polymer coatings, and they have challenged the conventional view of hot cup recyclability by participating in a multi-stakeholder collaboration along with Starbucks, WestRock, and Seda that saw used hot cups successfully recycled into new hot cups. Additionally, Sustana has partnered with Alpine Waste & Recycling and the Foodservice Packaging Institute to include paper cups in the list of acceptable items in Denver’s recycling collection program, proving that paper cups shouldn’t carry a blanket designation of being unrecyclable.
Why it’s important: Sustana deserves credit for including paper cups at a time when recycling markets are providing a surplus of more easily recyclable paper products. While many paper recyclers are constricting their lists of acceptable products, Sustana is actively broadening their list, sending a signal that they are willing to take on challenges in paper recycling that many other recycled paper product manufacturers will not.
Original submission: “The Innovation that Finally Proved that Coffee Cup Recycling is Possible”
What impact on sustainable packaging has this submission made?
Billions of paper takeaway cups end up in landfills every year due to a lack of collection and separation services, and because their plastic coating prevents them from being accepted by many recycling facilities. Sustana set out to change that. The Cup to Cup: Closing the Loop project – an innovative collaboration between Sustana, their supply chain partners, and Starbucks – demonstrated that coffee cups can be recycled and turned into new cups in a sustainable way. Starbucks, Sustana, WestRock and Seda proved that if collection systems exist, this method is a sustainable alternative to landfilling — with both environmental and economic benefits. Sustana’s pivotal role in the project was transforming the old cups into clean, 100% recycled, FDA-compliant fiber in an economically viable manner. These fibers were then used to make new cups. Sustana has continuously invested in equipment and technology to recycle single-use coffee cups, efficiently, effectively and at scale, by separating the interior plastic lining of the cups. Other examples of this technology in action include Sustana’s recent partnership with Alpine Waste & Recycling and the Foodservice Packaging Institute, which made it possible for paper cups to be recycled in Denver. Sustana also collected the cups used at the SPC Advance 2018, turning them into clean, recycled fibers. Sustana is committed to supplying recycled materials to its partners, while also recovering even more byproducts and side streams for reuse. These innovations in recovery make the case for sustainable manufacturing, and have the potential to be replicated and affect systemic change.Colgate Palmolive: Recyclability Upgrades for Palmolive Oxy Innovation in Recovery finalist
Colgate Palmolive overhauled the full body shrink sleeve while retaining their preferred means of decoration on the PET bottle for Palmolive Oxy dish soap. The new shrink sleeve is a crystalized PET label manufactured by SKC and converted by Fort Dearborn, featuring washable inks. Each supply chain partner has successfully passed the appropriate Association of Plastic Recyclers critical guidance tests.
Why it’s important: Conventional full body shrink sleeves are one of the most common and harmful disruptors to the PET recycling stream. Since most full body shrink sleeves are made of non-PET resins, they can cause a PET bottle to be misidentified by an optical sorter, and if the bottle does make it a PET reclaimer, the label material can persist throughout the reclamation process as a contaminant. Colgate Palmolive and their supply chain partners have addressed these issues by using cPET as the label substrate and using special inks that will be removed in the customary washing process, leaving behind an uncolored cPET label that can be reclaimed alongside the bottle. Remarkably, these improvements have been accomplished without any sacrifice to the branding and marketing characteristics provided by full body shrink sleeves, providing a true win-win.
Original submission: “Commercialization of Palmolive Oxy Dishwash Bottles with a Recyclable Shrink Sleeve and Washable Ink”
What impact on sustainable packaging has this submission made?
This technology is to address shrink sleeve’s negative impact on PET bottle recycling. It is known that shrink sleeves are the preferred means to decorate many beverage, food and CPG products due to their remarkable visual appearance. Since their emergence in 2010, shrink sleeves have gained increased share in the label market. However, the issues associated with shrink sleeves in regard to PET bottle recycling are also well recognized – they may confuse the optical sorters, discolor and/or clump the PET flakes and cause challenges to PET recycling. Colgate’s commercialization of the Palmolive OXY dishwash package addresses these concerns. It uses a crystallized PET copolymer shrink sleeve (SKC EcolabelTM ), converted and printed (by Fort Dearborn) with washable inks, mainly in transparent blue color. This produces a shrink sleeve that will ensure the PET bottle goes into the correct recycling stream (no mis-identification by optical sorters), it will not contaminate the PET flakes because the inks can be washed off the shrink sleeves during the caustic washing process and separated from the sleeve material /PET flakes, nor does it does cause clumping of PET flakes because the EcolabelTM sleeve material is compatible with PET and has the same melting temperature as that of PET. In addition, this technology enables shrink sleeve labels to be recycled with the PET bottles to increase the recycled material, which is a unique feature that other shrink sleeve technologies do not have. Colgate, SKC and Fort Dearborn respectively did APR critical guidance tests and passed.TC Transcontinental: Stand Up Pouch with EVOH Compatibilizer Innovation in Recovery finalist
TC Transcontinental developed and commercialized a new stand up pouch for Harney & Sons loose leaf tea using a layer of EVOH to provide the required barrier properties and the Dow Chemical Company’s RETAIN compatibilizer to enable recyclability through the established polyethylene film recycling stream. The pouch also provides the needed durability, heat seal strength, easy open laser score, resealable zipper, and high quality graphical characteristics.
Why it’s important: Multi-material flexible packaging is a rapidly growing segment of the packaging market that tends to have pronounced advantages in terms of resource efficiency and emissions intensity mirrored by a pronounced disadvantage in terms of recyclability. There has been significant activity around simplifying structures to become mono-layers of polyethylene in order to enable recyclability, but that shift is usually accompanied by a loss of the barrier properties provided by the non-polyethylene layers. TC Transcontinental and their supply chain partners are the first to bring to market an example of multi-material flexible packaging that retains its advantages in barrier properties, resource efficiency, emissions intensity, and can be recycled through the network of store drop-off collection receptacles that are widely available to consumers, significantly broadening the sustainability story of an important type of packaging.
Original submission: “Harney & Sons 100% Recyclable Loose Leaf Tea Pouch”
What impact on sustainable packaging has this submission made?
TC Transcontinental Packaging is proud to launch the first-in-market (for a food product using the Dow RETAIN compatiblizer), 100% recyclable for in-store drop-off, multilayer barrier stand-up pouch in partnership with Harney & Sons, an American tea company, for their loose tea flexible plastic pouch. Available at their stores only since November 2018, the multilayer recyclable pouch with barrier brings an innovative new sustainable product to the industry while still protecting the flavor and the freshness of the product. It took 4 months of rigorous research, development, testing, and film and resin partnerships at TC Transcontinental Packaging’s Vancouver lab to reach success. Blending art, science, and technology, and art, TC Transcontinental Packaging created a custom multi-layer, barrier film used for the stand-up pouch that hit all of the notes: 100% recycle ready for in-store drop off, included EVOH barrier for product preservation, had seal strength, was durable, and allowed for beautiful reproduction of the Harney & Sons’ luxurious heritage matte black and gold graphics. Keeping consumers in mind, convenience features including an easy-open laser score and a reclosable zipper ensured functionality of the stand-up pouch. One of the key components that made this breakthrough possible was the incorporation of Dow’s RETAIN resin technology which compatibilizes the EVOH barrier thus allowing for a multi-layer film to be fully recovered at end-of-life. This no longer hindered the ability for the package to be broken down and recycled so it can now contribute to a more sustainable and circular economy.
2018 SPC Innovator Awards Winners
Sustainable packaging innovators earn kudos
Sometimes it’s hard enough to make any substantial gains in sustainable packaging goals. But it takes extra effort and zeal to really excel. When that happens, the entire industry—and perhaps even the world—advances.
On April 25, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition applauded innovation and leadership in sustainable packaging with the presentation of its 2018 SPC Innovator Awards. Excellence in sustainability and packaging was recognized in four categories: Packaging Innovation; Breakthrough Process; Outcome of a Partnership; and Outstanding Person.
Read the Full Profile of the 2017 SPC Innovator Award Winners
2017 SPC Innovator Awards Winners
The sustainable packaging community celebrates achievements
Adam Gendell, Associate Director of the SPC:
“The submissions we received were a clear indicator of the impressive breadth and depth of our members’ activities in packaging sustainability. Our awardees are taking chances and deserve celebration for their enterprising and creative ideas. All of these winners went beyond the easy wins, and showed true commitment to creating meaningful change.”
Read the Full Profile of the 2017 SPC Innovator Award Winners
The submission window for this year’s awards have closed. Check back for more information about next year’s awards.