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Circular Plastics Case Competition: Coca-Cola, Hillenbrand and Net Impact set rPET innovation challenge

#Circular Plastics Case Competition: Coca-Cola, Hillenbrand and Net Impact set rPET innovation challenge

16 Jan 2024 — Hillenbrand, The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) and Net Impact have announced the launch of the second Circular Plastics Case Competition, a global initiative aimed at inspiring emerging business professionals to redesign the plastics value chain. The competition, which focuses on promoting sustainability and innovation, encourages participants to devise circular solutions.

The inaugural competition, held in Spring 2023, attracted over 150 participants from 13 countries, demonstrating a strong interest in reshaping the responsible lifecycle management of plastics. Building on this success, the 2024 competition challenges participants to rethink the supply of PCR material, specifically recycled PET (rPET).

Submissions for the competition are due in March. Up to five teams will be selected as finalists in the Circular Plastics Challenge, with each team paired with a subject matter expert mentor to refine and prepare their presentation ahead of the finals.

Finalists will have the opportunity to present their solution to a panel of expert judges at a virtual showcase during NPE2024, “the largest plastics trade show in the Americas,” which attracts over 55,000 industry leaders from more than 110 countries.

The first-place winner will be awarded US$10,000, US$2,500 for second place and US$1,000 for third place.

According to the companies, low recycling rates challenge meeting the growing demand for rPET. Hence, participants are tasked with exploring innovative strategies to overcome these constraints and contribute to a more circular economy.

plant in a clear plastic bottleThe first-place competition winner will be awarded US$10,000, US$2,500 for second place and US$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 compared to creating new plastic, and it can be recycled and transformed into other products throughout its lifespan,” says Kim Ryan, president and CEO of Hillenbrand.

“We initiated this competition to encourage the next generation to think creatively and develop solutions promoting 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 look forward to seeing how this year’s participants build on the momentum to make an impact.”

Platform for emerging professionals
Hillenbrand and Net Impact collaborated to introduce the Circular Plastics Case Competition concept in 2022, aiming to involve future leaders in reshaping the responsible lifecycle management of plastics.

The competition is guided by Hillenbrand and Coca-Cola, with Net Impact facilitating the event by leveraging its global network of social impact and sustainability leaders.

“The conversation around making a circular economy for plastics is dynamic and 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,” says Karen Johns, CEO of Net Impact.

“Program participants will learn about material circularity, lifecycle analysis and responsible supply chain management and learn to think like a sustainability manager at a large corporation today.”

Kurt Ritter, vice president and general manager of Sustainability at Coca‑Cola North America, adds that the event is a platform for developing forward-thinking solutions that contribute to the circulation of plastics, emphasizing TCCC’s commitment to fostering innovation and sustainability.

“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,” says Ritter.

“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 symbolizes our commitment to fostering innovation and sustainability. I am confident that the participants’ unique perspectives and resourceful ideas will help us advance a more circular and sustainable economy.”

Edited by Radhika Sikaria

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