Skip to main content

Hillenbrand, The Coca-Cola Company, and Net Impact Announce Second-annual Plastic Case Competition to Drive Circularity

Hillenbrand, The Coca-Cola Company, and Net Impact Announce Second-annual Plastic Case Competition to Drive Circularity


BATESVILLE, Ind. and OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 11, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Hillenbrand, Inc. (NYSE: HI), The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO), and Net Impact are hosting the second Circular Plastics Case Competition, which encourages emerging business professionals to rethink the plastics value chain by designing innovative solutions that help keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment.

Designed to foster innovation and champion sustainability, the competition invites participants to collaborate and generate industry-shifting ideas to increase the supply of post-consumer recycled material, or PCR. This year, the case competition will prompt participants to explore how to increase the supply of rPET, or recycled polyethylene. PET or polyethylene is a versatile material used for the packaging of food, beverages, cosmetics, and household products. Focusing on turning PET into rPET helps create a more circular economy by using plastic that has already been produced and helps solve the current supply challenges with rPET as it is not keeping pace with demand due to low recycling rates.

Submissions are due in March, and in May, finalists will present virtually at a showcase that will be broadcast during NPE®, which draws more than 55,000 leaders from over 110 countries representing every industry—from automotive to healthcare to consumer products to construction and more. The first-place winner will be awarded $10,000, followed by $2,500 for second place, and $1,000 for third place.

"Plastics are essential to our economy and will continue to play an important role in our future, making it crucial to concentrate on enhancing sustainability within the plastics value chain. rPET is an appealing material because it can significantly reduce the carbon footprint in comparison to creating new plastic, and it can be recycled and transformed into other products throughout its lifespan," said Kim Ryan, President and CEO of Hillenbrand. "We initiated this competition to engage the next generation to think creatively and develop solutions that promote a circular plastics economy. Our partnership with Net Impact has been invaluable in driving progress. I was inspired by the innovative ideas presented during the first challenge and am looking forward to seeing how this year's participants build on the momentum to make an impact."

Hillenbrand and Net Impact developed the Circular Plastics Case Competition concept in 2022 and held the first competition in Spring 2023 to engage future leaders in reshaping the responsible lifecycle management of plastics. Net Impact inspires, equips, and activates emerging leaders to build a more just and sustainable world. With over 130,000 members in more than 300 chapters at colleges, universities, and local communities worldwide, Net Impact takes on social challenges, protects the environment, develops new concepts and approaches, and leverages the tools of business toward the greater good. In short, Net Impact helps people turn their passions into a lifetime of world-changing action.

Hillenbrand and Coca-Cola will guide the topic and goals of the competition, and Net Impact will facilitate the competition by bringing together its global network of social impact and sustainability leaders to address the challenge.

"The conversation around making a circular economy for plastics is dynamic and incredibly exciting, and this program brings emerging professionals into that conversation by allowing them to grapple first-hand with the complex questions that sustainability practitioners are facing today," Karen Johns, CEO of Net Impact, said. "Program participants will learn about material circularity, life cycle analysis, and responsible supply chain management and learn to think like a sustainability manager at a large corporation today."

"We are excited to once again collaborate with Hillenbrand and Net Impact in hosting the second Circular Plastics Case Competition. Last year's event was truly inspiring, providing a platform for emerging business professionals to re-imagine the plastics value chain and develop forward-thinking solutions that keep plastics in circulation," said Kurt Ritter, Vice President & General Manager, Sustainability, Coca‑Cola North America. "By focusing this year's challenge on rPET, we hope to unearth innovative strategies to increase the supply and overcome the present restraints. This competition symbolizes our commitment to fostering innovation and sustainability, and I am confident that the unique perspectives and resourceful ideas of the participants will help us advance a more circular and sustainable economy."

More information about the 2024 Circular Plastics Case Competition, including participant applications, can be found at

About Hillenbrand
Hillenbrand (NYSE: HI) is a global industrial company that provides highly-engineered, mission-critical processing equipment and solutions to customers in over 100 countries around the world. Our portfolio is composed of leading industrial brands that serve large, attractive end markets, including durable plastics, food, and recycling. Guided by our Purpose — Shape What Matters For Tomorrow™ — we pursue excellence, collaboration, and innovation to consistently shape solutions that best serve our associates, customers, communities, and other stakeholders. To learn more, visit

About The Coca-Cola Company 
The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) is a total beverage company with products sold in more than 200 countries and territories. Our company's purpose is to refresh the world and make a difference. We sell multiple billion-dollar brands across several beverage categories worldwide. Our portfolio of sparkling soft drink brands includes Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta. Our water, sports, coffee and tea brands include Dasani, smartwater, vitaminwater, Topo Chico, BODYARMOR, Powerade, Costa, Georgia, Gold Peak and Ayataka. Our juice, value-added dairy and plant-based beverage brands include Minute Maid, Simply, innocent, Del Valle, fairlife and AdeS. We're constantly transforming our portfolio, from reducing sugar in our drinks to bringing innovative new products to market. We seek to positively impact people's lives, communities and the planet through water replenishment, packaging recycling, sustainable sourcing practices and carbon emissions reductions across our value chain. Together with our bottling partners, we employ more than 700,000 people, helping bring economic opportunity to local communities worldwide. Learn more at and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

About Net Impact
Over 30 years Net Impact has built a diverse community in 40+ countries committed to using business to advance social and environmental action. Net Impact mobilizes its global community of more than 100,000 emergent change agents to leverage their careers to drive transformational environmental and social change. Through a strategic set of initiatives aimed to engage and benefit its core stakeholders, Net Impact is committed to advancing climate action and building the capacity of the next generation of workforce members. Visit

SOURCE Hillenbrand, Inc.