Poland Spring is collaborating with the University of Maine to look into alternative packaging materials derived from Maine woods.

The company said Tuesday that the university’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute will help “evaluate and develop bio-based solutions” for packaging that the bottling company could use.

“This collaboration serves that important mission, leveraging the expertise of our faculty and staff, and facilitating the engagement of our students in cutting-edge research with important implications for our state and the wider world,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, the university’s president, according to a press release.

The goal is to reduce the environmental impact of packaging, part of the Poland-based company’s effort to reduce its environmental footprint, an initiative that already has it using recycled plastics for many of its bottles.

The company, which employs nearly 900 Mainers, said that Poland Spring began working with the University of Maine to assess biomaterial technologies that could serve as alternatives to petroleum-derived, nonrenewable materials following a 2019 bioplastics summit held by the university.

“It’s great to see one of Maine’s strongest brands working with Maine’s flagship research university to look at new opportunities that are beneficial to both the environment and the economy of the state,” Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, said in a prepared statement.

“Any time Maine’s natural resources, the basis of our heritage industries for generations, are looked at with fresh eyes to promote innovation, it is a benefit to the entire state,” she said. “Maine further secures a position in the global economy, and the industry is given an option that is better for the planet. This a great example of a strong private-public partnership.”

David Tulauskas, vice president and chief sustainability officer for Nestlé Waters North America, parent company of Poland Spring, said in a prepared statement that the university “is pioneering new renewable and sustainable wood-based materials and processes that can be used as an alternative to petroleum-derived products, making them the ideal collaborator as we strive for a low-carbon, waste-free future.”

“Their innovative work is already showing how a Maine-based circular economy is possible, and this project will identify additional potential uses for the state’s wood fiber byproducts as sustainable packaging or other products,” he said.

“We look forward to the potential innovative advances in packaging and other sustainability areas that may be enhanced and discovered through this collaboration benefiting the environment, the forest industry and the great state of Maine,” he said.

“The expanded use of forest-based biomass in areas such as packaging, infrastructure, equipment, novel materials and even biofuels is a key development objective for the Maine forest sector, and this initiative between Poland Spring and UMaine is a great start,” Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council, said in a prepared statement.

“Diversifying the uses of Maine-harvested biomass is essential to the growth and sustainability of our state’s forest economy,” Strauch said.


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