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Hillenbrand, Coca-Cola, and Net Impact host second Circular Plastics Case Competition

Plastic bottles stacked in a pile
The competition invites participants to collaborate and generate industry-shifting ideas to increase the supply of post-consumer recycled material (PCR). Adobe Stock Images

Hillenbrand, The Coca-Cola Company, and Net Impact are hosting the second Circular Plastics Case Competition, which encourages business professionals to rethink the plastics value chain by designing solutions that help keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment.

The competition invites participants to collaborate and generate industry-shifting ideas to increase the supply of post-consumer recycled material (PCR). This year, the case competition will prompt participants to explore how to increase the supply of rPET, or recycled polyethylene terephthalate. PET or polyethylene terephthalate 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. In May, finalists will present virtually at a showcase that will be broadcasted during NPE2024. 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 in reshaping the responsible lifecycle management of plastics.

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 and general manager of sustainability at Coca-Cola North America.

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