Food packaging is approximately a $340-billion industry worldwide. In the U.S., about a third of household waste is food packaging, and much of this cannot be recycled. Gifts totaling $2.2 million from The Wegman Family Charitable Foundation and American Packaging Corp. to the Rochester Institute of Technology will help create the Center for Sustainable Packaging, an education and research center dedicated to the development and use of sustainable packaging. The center’s mission will be to deliver a unique brand of applied research solutions that will enable manufacturers to provide innovative products in a sustainable manner.
“This initiative strikes directly at the heart of RIT’s educational mission,” says RIT president Bill Destler. “The Center for Sustainable Packaging will put students on the front line of applied research that enables manufacturers to provide consumers with innovative products while neutralizing society’s impact on the depletion of vital resources. Through collaborative partnerships and industry networks, the center will accelerate the development of realistic solutions in sustainable packaging. RIT is extremely grateful to The Wegman Family Charitable Foundation and American Packaging for their support.”
The center will be a testing ground for new ideas and solutions for students, researchers, faculty, and corporate partners that are interested in sustainable packaging. It will also educate the next generation of packaging professionals intent on bringing sustainable principles to manufacturers around the world. Because of RIT’s location in the Finger Lakes region of New York state—a major hub of food production and processing that serves the densely populated northeast—experiments can happen quickly, and results can be shared readily within the industry.
RIT is already the home of the American Packaging Corp. Center for Packaging Innovation in the university’s College of Applied Science and Technology, established in 2007 and created to focus on material science issues within packaging. American Packaging has given an additional $1.2 million gift to continue support of the existing center and to help create the new RIT Center for Sustainable Packaging. The two centers will collaborate on joint development initiatives.
“The various components of the food packaging supply chain are siloed. Each works to maximize its own results, without a common goal of sustainability,” says Peter Schottland, president and CEO of American Packaging. “In order to make the most progress on sustainable packaging, the best ideas across the industry are necessary. In an environment where the industry is aligned, experiments can happen, economies of scale are overcome, knowledge is shared, and results agreed upon.”
The Wegman Family Charitable Foundation has contributed $1 million toward this initiative. “In combination with the Center for Packaging Innovation, this new program will make RIT and Rochester a destination for students, retailers, and manufacturers with an interest in sustainable packaging,” says Danny Wegman, chairman of the board of The Wegman Family Charitable Foundation. “Support for innovative approaches to education is a focus area for our foundation. The RIT Center for Sustainable Packaging has the potential to be on the forefront of changes that will impact our future in a significant way.”