2019 SPC Innovator Awards
Innovation in Recovery:
Advancements in Foodservice Packaging Recycling
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 featuring improved repulpability, and they have also developed a new cup stock 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.
“A large portion of paper-based foodservice packages are discarded in the U.S. each year, as historically, this packaging has not been widely accepted in recycling programs,” said Patrick Lindner, president of WestRock’s Consumer Packaging business. “WestRock’s acceptance of foodservice packaging at its mills as well as our research and development work on new, more recyclable and compostable packaging designs exemplifies our commitment to finding ways to make packaging more sustainable.”