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MSU to establish Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability

$400,000 from The Coca-Cola Co. will help create think tank center.

Susan Selke, interim director of the MSU School of Packaging. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz
Susan Selke, interim director of the MSU School of Packaging. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz

Improving the global sustainability of product packaging took a meaningful step forward with a new collaboration proposed by The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, and Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. The Coca-Cola Co. awarded $400,000 to MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to help establish a new Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability.

The planned center, to be housed in the MSU School of Packaging, will serve as a think tank for packaging innovation and sustainability and a research and education hub to measure and reduce packaging’s environmental impact. The Coca-Cola Co. grant represents the initiating gift in a campaign to establish the global center.

"The Coca-Cola Company is honored to collaborate with Michigan State University in its quest to bring corporate, academic and packaging professionals together to foster new ideas in sustainable packaging,” says Ingrid Saunders Jones, senior vice president of global community connections for The Coca-Cola Company “Our company has set ambitious environmental goals to not only deliver quality products, but to also have minimal impact on the environment. Research and work generated through this collaboration with MSU will assist us in reaching our goals.”

Proprietary and nonproprietary research

The center will involve the MSU colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources (School of Packaging), Engineering, and the Eli Broad College of Business (Department of Supply Chain Management). It will provide a platform for both collaborative, non-proprietary research and proprietary work conducted by industry partners, both in partnership with and independent of MSU researchers, to develop innovative packaging solutions that reduce production costs and improve sustainability.

“The center will offer an entry point for industry to have easy access to MSU expertise," says Satish Udpa, dean of the MSU College of Engineering. "It will serve as a bridge between corporate and packaging industry professionals and university scientists in engineering, packaging, business, the environment and other areas. The center will be a clearinghouse that disseminates information and encourages action that speeds the adoption and implementation of sustainable practices.”

Adds Elvin Lashbrooke, interim dean of the Eli Broad College of Business, “By bringing together university and industry resources in supply chain, packaging and engineering, this center will be able to effectively address issues of sustainability, discover environmentally, and economically operative solutions and consider new ways to manage environmental impact throughout the value chain."

The center will include state-of-the-art technology for bench research and testing of packaging materials and will offer academic, outreach and continuing education programs. It is anticipated to eventually expand its reach internationally through research, development, education, and training facilities in Dubai and Shanghai.

“Packaging is ubiquitous throughout the food system and a critical component to the quality, safety, and sustainability of the products we buy and eat,” says Jeffrey Armstrong, dean of the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The Coca-Cola company's funding commitment to establish the Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability will move us toward an unprecedented level of industry collaboration that will have global implications for improving packaging performance and sustainability.”

Scott Vitters (shown, left), group director, Global Sustainability for The Coca-Cola Co., will speak during the luncheon program at the Packaging Executives Forum II being presented by the School of Packaging on Jan. 27 at the MSU Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. A discussion of the Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability is also scheduled for the afternoon program. This will be the first opportunity for packaging professionals to meet with the deans of the involved colleges and the acting director of the School of Packaging to learn more about the center and discuss its launch. Details are available at

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