AMP Robotics, Flöter Verpackungs-Service GmbH, and WestRock win 2022 SPC Innovator Awards
For over five years, the SPC Innovator Awards have featured companies that are dedicated to continually improving sustainable packaging. The goal of these awards is to highlight solutions and inspire other organizations within the space to test and scale sustainable packaging innovations.
The Sustainable Packaging Coalition congratulated the winners of the 2022 SPC Innovator Awards on the first day of SPC Advance during an awards ceremony. Upon taking the stage, the winners spoke about what stood out to them among the innovations this year: collaboration. Forming new partnerships, working with different parts of the supply chain, and investing in new technology all strengthened the winning innovations.
The categories in the SPC Innovator Awards are: Responsible Sourcing, Design Optimization, and Recovery.
Innovation in Responsible Sourcing winner
Flöter Verpackungs-Service GmbH: AirWave PaperWave
Starting to develop this idea in 2018, Flöter Verpackungs-Service GmbH's inflatable paper cushion packaging solution actively works to replace plastic e-commerce cushions. The company made it a point to focus on compostability in addition to recyclability, recognizing that composting can be a global end-of-life scenario. Flöter Verpackungs-Service GmbH developed a solution using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper and a potato starch lining, designed to be both curbside recyclable and compostable. Their hope is to end their own plastic-based production and transition to air and paper-based materials in the near future.
Because the air cushions are produced directly at the packing station, additional energy expenditure and CO2 emissions are saved during transport. PaperWave can be disposed of in both organic waste or paper recycling bins. When disposing of it, the consumer is able to easily identify that it is paper, and the product also bears the RESY mark as well as the sorting symbol 22PAP common symbol in the European market. In addition, the product has been certified by the Paper Technology Foundation in Munich (PTS) as recyclable.
Innovation in Design Optimization winner
During their acceptance speech, WestRock spoke to how they brought many parts of the supply chain together and worked closely with FedEx to endlessly trial and test their design. Outperforming a standard plastic mailer, the KD-Fold was recognized for its operational efficiencies. It minimizes fibre material with a tight fit that avoids the use of void fill. This design not only improved efficiency but storage space on the shipping pallet as well.
The KD-Fold uses an average of 50 percent less paper than a small, corrugated box needed for the same contents. KD-Fold is both Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and FSC certified. It is also curbside recyclable. The Pak On Demand mailer system produces custom, sustainable fibre-based mailers on demand and seals the package for shipment. This system has a footprint of only five feet by 12 feet, requiring less space in back-of-store operations or space used for e-commerce order fulfillment. Since only one operator is needed for the Pak On Demand, labour reduction and savings are possible.
Innovation in Recovery winner
AMP Robotics: How AI and producer collaboration are influencing recovery and driving increased recycling rates
AMP Robotics's innovation turned to the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to successfully sort through the messiest of recycling streams. In partnership with Sonoco, a global packaging provider, AMP Robotics created a new material category within its neural network specific to rigid paperboard cans – items like Pringles cans and coffee, nut, and snack containers. The partnership drives increased recycling rates for spiral-wound paper canisters with steel and paper bottoms produced by Sonoco and other manufacturers. In addition to being a manufacturer, Sonoco is a recycler, operating more than 40 recycling facilities globally. The company has deployed an AMP Cortex intelligent robotics system in one of its facilities, with a second planned in a different facility. This recycling relationship enables Sonoco to directly test and leverage AMP's technology.
AMP is working with companies across the spectrum of recyclable materials to adapt its AI platform to the specificity of a manufacturer or brand and disperse the sorting capability to materials recovery facilities (MRFs) with its robotic sorting systems. After beginning testing in 2021, their AI is now able to successfully identify and sort 50 billion packaging types and will only improve with more technological advancements. With more and more companies setting PCR commitments, AMP Robotics went through an iterative series of real-world MRF trials to recover more and more materials from the waste stream. Any MRF with an AMP Cortex system can now accurately and efficiently sort Sonoco's paper can to the desired stream. This enables manufacturers to directly influence what's recoverable and take advantage of the ability to capture more of their specific packaging.