Piovan Summiteer May 2024
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Boise State University-based team selected as winner of the 2024 Circular Plastics Challenge

Batesville, Indiana, United States

  • Winning concept focuses on redesign of PET bottles to increase the collection likelihood in the recycling process.
  • Presented by Net Impact, Hillenbrand, and The Coca-Cola Company, the program aims to inspire the next generation of leaders to rethink the future of sustainability within the circular economy.

A team from Boise State University was selected as winner of the 2024 Circular Plastics Challenge with its forward-thinking solution regarding the circular economy, presented during the virtual showcase of the Circular Plastics Challenge at NPE2024.

Participants were tasked with designing solutions to increase the supply of rPET, or recycled polyethylene terephthalate. The winning team proposed an innovative redesign of bottles called Strong Bottle to prevent flattening during the recycling process, which in turn could result in a 15% increase in PET collected during the recycling process. The solution addresses the problem that many lightweight PET bottles are landfilled because they are easily flattened and mistaken for paper during the recycling process in material recovery facilities.

The team includes Terra Miller-Cassman, a materials scientist with a background in environmental science and consulting. In 2019, she pivoted her career to advance technologies and solutions to address plastic waste. She currently develops new recycling processes and sustainable materials as a Ph.D. candidate in materials science and engineering. Taylor Fackrell and Aaron Smith, Ph.D., supported the Strong Bottle project through their engineering and design expertise. Fackrell is a systems assembly technician completing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, and Smith is a professor in mechanical engineering with a background in product development.

Tomra May 2024

In its second year, the Circular Plastics Challenge generated 65 applications from 18 countries across the globe, bringing undergraduate and graduate students as well as professionals together to strategize how to keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment. Five finalist teams virtually presented their unique solutions Wednesday to a panel of judges at NPE2024, the largest plastics trade show in the Americas that is produced by the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) and draws attendees from around the world.

The 2024 Circular Plastics Challenge winners are:

  • First Place: Strong Bottle, led by Terra Miller-Cassman, Aaron Smith, and Taylor Fackrell, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, US
  • Second Place: EcoTrace, led by professionals Aadhithya Sujith and Sowmya Singh, Kannur, Kerala & Nagpur, Maharashtra, India
  • Third Place: rMarket, led by Carissa Tasto and Jennifer Larkin, recent MBA graduates from Presidio Graduate School, San Anselmo, California, US

To recognize their efforts, the top three teams will receive $10,000, $2,500, and $1,000, respectively.

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