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Circular Plastics Contest to Drive Supply of Recycled PET

Key Highlights:

  • Hillenbrand, The Coca-Cola Company, and Net Impact join forces for the second Circular Plastics Case Competition.
  • The contest challenges emerging professionals to design innovative solutions for the plastics value chain, particularly focusing on increasing the supply of recycled polyethylene (rPET).
  • The finalists will present virtually in May during NPE, a global event with over 55,000 leaders. Prizes include $10,000 for the first-place winner.
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Hillenbrand, Inc. The Coca-Cola Company, and Net Impact are hosting the second Circular Plastics Case Competition, which encourages emerging business professionals to rethink the plastics value chain by designing innovative solutions that help keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment.

Designed to foster innovation and champion sustainability, the competition invites participants to collaborate and generate industry-shifting ideas to increase the supply of post-consumer recycled material, or PCR. This year, the case competition will prompt participants to explore how to increase the supply of rPET, or recycled polyethylene. PET or polyethylene is a versatile material used for the packaging of food, beverages, cosmetics, and household products.

Focusing on turning PET into rPET helps create a more circular economy by using plastic that has already been produced and helps solve the current supply challenges with rPET as it is not keeping pace with demand due to low recycling rates.

Submissions are due in March, and in May, finalists will present virtually at a showcase that will be broadcast during NPE, which draws more than 55,000 leaders from over 110 countries representing every industry—from automotive to healthcare to consumer products to construction and more. The first-place winner will be awarded $10,000, followed by $2,500 for second place, and $1,000 for third place.

"Plastics are essential to our economy and will continue to play an important role in our future, making it crucial to concentrate on enhancing sustainability within the plastics value chain. rPET is an appealing material because it can significantly reduce the carbon footprint in comparison to creating new plastic, and it can be recycled and transformed into other products throughout its lifespan," said Kim Ryan, president and CEO of Hillenbrand.

"We initiated this competition to engage the next generation to think creatively and develop solutions that promote a circular plastics economy. Our partnership with Net Impact has been invaluable in driving progress. I was inspired by the innovative ideas presented during the first challenge and am looking forward to seeing how this year's participants build on the momentum to make an impact."

Hillenbrand and Net Impact developed the Circular Plastics Case Competition concept in 2022 and held the first competition in Spring 2023 to engage future leaders in reshaping the responsible lifecycle management of plastics. Net Impact inspires, equips, and activates emerging leaders to build a more just and sustainable world. With over 130,000 members in more than 300 chapters at colleges, universities, and local communities worldwide, Net Impact takes on social challenges, protects the environment, develops new concepts and approaches, and leverages the tools of business toward the greater good. In short, Net Impact helps people turn their passions into a lifetime of world-changing action.

Hillenbrand and Coca-Cola will guide the topic and goals of the competition, and Net Impact will facilitate the competition by bringing together its global network of social impact and sustainability leaders to address the challenge.

"The conversation around making a circular economy for plastics is dynamic and incredibly exciting, and this program brings emerging professionals into that conversation by allowing them to grapple first-hand with the complex questions that sustainability practitioners are facing today," Karen Johns, CEO of Net Impact, said. "Program participants will learn about material circularity, life cycle analysis, and responsible supply chain management and learn to think like a sustainability manager at a large corporation today."

"We are excited to once again collaborate with Hillenbrand and Net Impact in hosting the second Circular Plastics Case Competition. Last year's event was truly inspiring, providing a platform for emerging business professionals to re-imagine the plastics value chain and develop forward-thinking solutions that keep plastics in circulation," said Kurt Ritter, vice president & general manager, Sustainability, Coca?Cola North America.

"By focusing this year's challenge on rPET, we hope to unearth innovative strategies to increase the supply and overcome the present restraints. This competition symbolises our commitment to fostering innovation and sustainability, and I am confident that the unique perspectives and resourceful ideas of the participants will help us advance a more circular and sustainable economy."

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Publication date: 15/01/2024

European Plastic Product Manufacturer

This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2022-01-31