Hillenbrand, The Coca-Cola Company, and Net Impact Announce Winners of Inaugural Circular Plastics Case Competition

Date 2023-04-27 | Sustainability / Social Responsibility

  • Winning concepts highlight innovative solutions designed to solve challenges within the plastics value chain

BATESVILLE, Ind., ATLANTA, Ga., and OAKLAND, Cal. - April 27, 2023 /PRNewswire/ – Hillenbrand, Inc. (NYSE: HI),  The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO), and Net Impact announced the 2023 winners of the Circular Plastics Case Competition. The Circular Plastics Case Competition was created with the goal of bringing together the next generation of innovators to rethink the challenges the plastics value chain faces from creation to collection.

“Plastics remain indispensable to our economy and have a place in our future, so it is critical to remain focused on what can be done to advance sustainability within the plastics value chain. Because our equipment is used by the plastics and recycling industries, we can play an active role in being part of the solution,” said Kim Ryan, President and CEO of Hillenbrand. “With sustainability in mind, we created this competition to encourage the next generation to think outside the box and develop solutions that support a circular plastics economy. I am amazed by the innovation and ingenuity of the participants, and I am inspired to see so many individuals take action to help solve one of today’s most pressing challenges.”

In its inaugural year, the competition drew more than 50 submissions and contestants from 10 different countries across the globe, representing teams composed of undergraduate students, graduate students, and professionals. Participants were challenged to design solutions that would help keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment. Finalists presented their concept to industry leaders from Hillenbrand, The Coca-Cola Company, and The Recycling Partnership.

The 2023 Circular Plastics Case Competition winners are:

  • The First Place Team winning the $10,000 prize is Ashaya, an Indian-based startup that is turning post-consumer multi-layer plastic (MLP) typically found in packets of chips, into new products, starting with recycled sunglasses. The startup aims to increase the value of waste through technological and scientific innovations in recycling and then fairly redistribute that value to stakeholders in the supply chain, especially those who are the poorest: waste-pickers, their website states. Ashaya estimates that their lab has scaled to process more than 2,500 kilograms of plastic waste annually.
  • The Second Place Team winning the $2,000 prize is the Tanzanian-based startup Vendify. Vendify uses solar-powered vending stations in rural Tanzania to offer in-demand consumer products such as cooking oil and liquid soap in exchange for the plastic waste that rural local waste-pickers collect from the environment. The active business estimates it will be able to divert more than 1,000 kilograms of plastic waste from landfills annually after scaling.
  • The Third Place Team winning the $1,000 prize is Ecovend, an early-stage business concept conceived from a group of MBA students at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. The business model would employ vending machines in grocery stores across Spain to eliminate the unrecyclable toilet paper plastic packaging, diverting and estimated 47 million kilograms of plastic from going into the landfill every year.

“We were delighted and proud to be able to join Hillenbrand and Net Impact in supporting this global initiative, as its goals closely align with our World Without Waste sustainable packaging ambitions,” said Kurt Ritter, VP of Sustainability, The Coca-Cola Company North America. “To address the challenges within the plastics value chain, it is crucial that we engage all stakeholders in the conversation, including and especially the young leaders in the communities we serve.”

“The response we received to the Circular Plastics Case Competition in its first year was some of the highest interest our organization has ever seen,” said Karen Johns, CEO, GOOD Institute, home to Net Impact. “Our partnership with Hillenbrand and The Coca-Cola Company serves as a model for how businesses and non-profits can partner together to activate emerging leaders, engage the next generation, accelerate DEI, and create solutions for the betterment of society.”

Hillenbrand plans to continue the partnership with Net Impact to spur innovation and interest in a circular economy with the next generation. For organizations interested in partnering with Hillenbrand and Net Impact to tackle critical sustainability issues in the plastic industry, please contact Hilary Manzo, Senior Program Manager at Net Impact, at [email protected].

Learn more about the winning submissions on Net Impact’s website.