Center for Sustainable Packaging created at RIT

American Packaging Corp. and The Wegman Family Charitable Foundation fund sustainability initiative

A. Sue Weisler

American Packaging Corp. and The Wegman Family Charitable Foundation donated $2.2 million to RIT to establish the Center for Sustainable Packaging at the university. This is not the first time the organizations have collaborated with the university, as both have sponsored student product-design competitions, including a March 2012 event. The winning team from that event is Sumeet Deshpante, left, Tuan Tran, Marco Fesyuk, Christin Allesio, Simon Jones and Chen Guo Wei; they redesigned packaging for Wegmans barbecue sauce.

Nearly a third of consumer waste is food packaging, and much of it cannot be recycled. But finding ways to reduce that waste and its impact on the economy and the environment is the focus of a new research center being established at RIT.

Gifts totaling $2.2 million from The Wegman Family Charitable Foundation and American Packaging Corp. will help to create the Center for Sustainable Packaging, an education and research center dedicated to the development and use of sustainable packaging.

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.

Rochester-based American Packaging Corp., a long-time partner of the university, donated $1 million in 2007 to establish the American Packaging Corp. Center for Packaging Innovation in the university’s College of Applied Science and Technology. Work in this facility focuses on material-science issues within packaging. The company 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 chief executive officer of American Packaging Corp. “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.”

This will not be the first time the two companies have collaborated with the university and its students. In the last several years, American Packaging Corp. has sponsored design competitions for students in packaging science. Most recently, Wegmans Food Markets partnered with RIT and American Packaging for a design competition that included students from the packaging program as well as those from graphic design and industrial design, programs in RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences.

RIT will bring to the project: faculty expertise, facilities and research capabilities, focused on the development of new materials, processes and designs. Research efforts will be a blend of near-term fixes and long-term efforts focused on reducing the carbon footprint required to package and deliver high-quality products to the consumer.

“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 Wegman Family Charitable Foundation, a charity headquartered in Rochester, New York, was created by Robert Wegman in 1991 and is funded by assets from his estate.

American Packaging Corp. is an ISO 9001:2008 company specializing in the manufacture of flexible packaging laminations for a variety of specialty markets. The company has three process-focused facilities: Rotogravure Printing and Laminating, Flexographic Printing and Laminating, Extrusion Laminating and Coating. The company is privately held and has been serving the packaging industry for over 100 years. It is located at 777 Driving Park Ave., Rochester.

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