Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor

April 26, 2017

6 Min Read
The sustainable packaging community celebrates achievements

The best in sustainability—people, packaging, partnerships and processes—sparkled on Monday night, April 24, at the 2017 SPC Innovator Awards celebration. Organized by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, the competition recognizes outstanding ideas, efforts and achievements in sustainability and packaging.

The winners of this year’s contest received their awards on the first night of the SustPack 2017 conference, jointly produced by SPC and Smithers Pira, and with Packaging Digest serving as the media partner.

This is the third year of the competition, renamed from the previously known Trashies Awards. As Steve Mahler, design manager and sustainable package development manager at Caraustar Industries—an SPC member and the originator of the competition—explained at the award presentation ceremony, “After two years of having this event, we realized that everyone in this room is not just a packaging person—you’re an innovator. So we decided it was time to call this award what it really is: an innovator’s award. Without innovation, we can’t progress, we can’t come up with the new ideas to shape everything.”

SPC awarded one winner in each of the competition’s four categories: Outstanding Person; Packaging Innovation; Outcome of a Partnership; and Breakthrough Process.

The winners are:

Page 1. Outstanding Person: Chad Kreye, senior packaging engineer, Target

Page 2. Packaging Innovation: CleanFlake Solution from Avery Dennison

Page 3. Outcome of a Partnership: Hefty Energy Bag program partnership between The Dow Chemical Co., Reynolds Consumer Products, First Star Recycling, ConAgra Brands, Recyclebank and Systech Environmental Corp.

Page 4. Breakthrough Process: Keurig Green Mountain materials recovery facility (MRF) Flow Study Methodology


Look at his smile! Chad Kreye, Target’s senior packaging engineer, owned brands packaging, shows his appreciation for winning the 2017 SPC Innovators Award in the People category.

1. Outstanding Person: Chad Kreye, senior packaging engineer, Target

With passion, tenacity, technical expertise and “memorable warmth,” Kreye has made the daunting task of adding the How2Recycle label to thousands of products over years’ time look easy. He initiated a custom work flow process that has allowed the retailer to apply the How2Recycle label to a “wildly diverse and voluminous array of packaging types, with the highest level of efficiency and quality,” according to the entry.

As leader of Target’s How2Recycle team, Kreye has spurred the passion of the entire group, inspiring them to achieve a remarkable feat. No other How2Recycle member company has added the label to as many packaging types as Target. As of today, more than 1,700 Target items use the How2Recycle label.

But the real kicker is that it’s not just Target that benefits from Kreye’s energetic work ethic. “Since Chad has driven Target’s implementation of How2Recycle in the label program’s early days, the operational insights and solutions Chad has helped not only uncover and solve—but also proactively predict—will benefit all future How2Recycle member companies.”


The winner of the 2017 SPC Innovators Award in the Product category is Avery Dennison for its CleanFlake label adhesive. Heather Valentino, North America sustainability manager, accepts the award on behalf of the company.

2. Packaging Innovation: CleanFlake Solution from Avery Dennison

To advance the recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Avery Dennison developed in 2012 CleanFlake, a water-based recyclable paper label adhesive that cleanly separates during the sink-float recycling process.

In 2016, the company expanded its CleanFlake portfolio to include an improved adhesive that works with paper and film labels on bottles and thermoformed containers.

Compliant with the legislation “Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals” (REACH), this cost-competitive CleanFlake adhesive allows recyclers to produce purer PET flake with less contaminants. According to the company, 560 million PET bottles are wasted every year in the recycling process, largely due to incompatible label materials.


Accepting the 2017 SPC Innovators Award in the Partnership category are (l to r) Matt Maurer, director, new product development and growth strategies at Reynolds Consumer Products; Jeff Wooster, global sustainability director at The Dow Chemical Co.; and Han Zhang, Dow’s sustainability and advocacy manager, packaging and specialty plastics.

3. Outcome of a Partnership: Hefty Energy Bag program partnership between The Dow Chemical Co., Reynolds Consumer Products, First Star Recycling, ConAgra Brands, Recyclebank and Systech Environmental Corp.

The Hefty Energy Bag program hopes to change people’s perception of “recycling” by collecting non-recyclable plastics at curbside and converting them into an energy source.

­­After a successful pilot in 2014 in Citrus Heights, CA, the program continues in Omaha, NE, where the collected materials are used to fuel a cement plant.

According to the entry, the program “demonstrates the feasibility of collecting households’ non-recycled plastics at curbside, sorting them at a material recycling facility, delivering the desired/sorted materials to an energy conversion facility [such as a pyrolysis plant] and effectively converting them into an energy resource—all via an existing waste management infrastructure.”

A range of organizations came together in partnership for a shared cause. With support from Mayor Jean Stothert, Dow helped launch the first phase of the program for Recyclebank’s 6,000 existing member in the Omaha area in September 2016.

Here is the role of each partner:

Dow contributes the company’s plastics expertise and resins that allow the Hefty Energy Bag and the non-recycled plastic contents inside the bag to be converted into energy. Dow is also providing project management and ongoing communications to raise awareness of the program.

Recyclebank provided communication support and access to their existing members in the Omaha area. Recyclebank’s 6,000 existing members in the Omaha area were first to participate in the Omaha program’s initial phase.

Reynolds Consumer Products is the leading sponsor of the program. Hefty is also the manufacturer of the orange Hefty Energy Bags that are distributed to program participants.

First Star Recycling is responsible for the collection and sorting process.

• ConAgra Foods provides a strong advocate for the program working to ensure its consumers can recycle the packaging from their products.

Systech Environmental Corp. converts the recovered energy into cement.

Additionally, the municipality of Omaha and local government officials, specifically the office of Mayor Stothert, helped support the program by providing education and access to residents. In November 2016, the city issued 2,500 additional roller bins so more citizens could participate.


Keurig’s Ali Donahue (left), environmental sustainability engineer, and Monique Oxender, chief sustainability officer, accept their 2017 SPC Innovators Award in the Process category.

4. Breakthrough Process: Keurig Green Mountain materials recovery facility (MRF) Flow Study Methodology

What really happens to a package as it goes through a MRF? We used to make educated guesses. But, thanks to a three-year study with myriad partners across North America, Keurig can tell you. The company developed a unique and practical flow study methodology that reflects actual material flow versus estimations from manual sortation.

The methodology uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track 100% of any package, big or small, in real time—and without negatively impacting the facility’s operations. According to the entry, capturing this data enables analysis of recovery rates and contamination potential to inform subsequent optimization efforts of new or existing packaging.

Additionally, “The resulting baseline data, in turn, allows industry to make strides towards increased recovery rates for any package, but specifically those categories of packaging that have historically received less attention and yet are increasing in volume in the waste stream.”


About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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