The Sustainable Packaging Coalition has announced the winners of the annual SPC Innovator Awards. The awards recognize meaningful contributions and advancements toward more sustainable packaging in the following categories: Innovation in Responsible Sourcing, Innovation in Design Optimization, Innovation in Recovery, and Outstanding Person or Team. A panel of judges, made up of SPC staff members and outside industry experts, chose winners that demonstrate the creative and significant work that our industry does to advance sustainability in packaging.
The winners were awarded on stage at the SPC Impact conference on April 4 in Seattle.
“The winners of the 2019 SPC Innovator Awards exemplify the types of advancements we believe will truly make a difference in achieving more sustainable packaging,” says Adam Gendell, associate director of the SPC. “We would like to congratulate each winner, all the finalists, and everyone who participated in the SPC Innovator Awards. Clearly, important advancements are being made on multiple fronts and we were delighted by the impressive caliber of all the submissions.”
This year’s winners are:
Innovation in Responsible Sourcing winner: Annie’s Homegrown
This award was presented for the company’s Annie’s Friends Cereal: 35% Post-Consumer Recycled Content HDPE Cereal Liner & Education Graphic. Annie’s Homegrown and supply chain partners Charter NEX and Envision Plastics 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.
“Any company who successfully navigates the challenges surrounding the use of postconsumer recycled content in film applications deserves credit, and this is no exception,” according to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. “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!”
Innovation in Design Optimization winner: Blue Apron
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%.
“Meal kit packaging tends to require significant amounts of insulation, refrigerant gel packs, and corrugate in order to safely deliver ingredients,” according to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. “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” 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!”
Innovation in Recovery winner: WestRock
WestRock, recognized for advancements in foodservice packaging recycling, 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 has 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 has begun accepting paper foodservice packaging in eight of their recycled paperboard mills and two of their owned material recovery facilities.
“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,” according to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. “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.”
Outstanding Person or Team winner: Revolution Plastics
Revolution is a new company formed by Delta Plastics, Encore Recycling, and Command Packaging, bringing together expertise in agricultural film recycling with expertise in plastic film, bag, and irrigation tubing manufacturing.
This combination of recycling and manufacturing capabilities puts Revolution in a unique position of being able to tie together both ends of plastic life cycles and make meaningful strides in achieving circularity,” according to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. “Plastic film recycling and manufacturing new films with recycled content are both critical in the current landscape of plastics and recycling, and Revolution is well poised to play an important role.”