Paper Packaging Leader Invests in Sustainable Future with $1.6 Million Donation

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The University of Maine (UMaine) has received a significant boost for its sustainable packaging research thanks to a $1.6 million donation from Packaging Corporation of America (PCA).

This investment will propel the UMaine Sustainable Packaging Initiative, a collaborative effort focused on developing eco-friendly packaging solutions using renewable forest resources.

"Sustainable packaging is a massive opportunity for the paper industry," said Barbara Hamilton, a UMaine graduate and senior director of process control technology at PCA. "This investment will not only benefit the industry but also provide invaluable hands-on learning experiences for UMaine's Black Bear students."

The funds will be directed towards the university's Process Development Center (PDC), a unique research facility that caters to both traditional pulp and paper research and emerging technologies like material science. The donation will allow the PDC to upgrade its infrastructure and acquire new equipment, solidifying its position as a leading pilot production lab for sustainable packaging in the U.S.

"This gift is transformative for the PDC," said center director Colleen Walker. "It will enhance our ability to serve researchers from both industry and academia, ultimately leading to the commercialization of innovative, forest-based packaging solutions."

PCA's contribution also leverages a $75 million matching challenge grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation. This initiative, part of UMS TRANSFORMS, aims to attract more engineering and computing students to Maine while expanding educational opportunities in critical fields like renewable energy and advanced materials.

"We are incredibly grateful to PCA for their generosity," said UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy. "This donation positions UMaine as a global leader in sustainable packaging research while offering exceptional learning opportunities for our students."

PCA has a long-standing relationship with UMaine, supporting aspiring engineers through the UMaine Pulp and Paper Foundation. "PCA's commitment to UMaine has been instrumental in shaping the careers of many talented engineers," said Carrie Enos, president of the UMPPF.

PCA's investment highlights the growing recognition of Maine's leadership in the national forest sector. Recent developments include the state's designation as a Forest Bioproducts Advanced Manufacturing Tech Hub and a $10 million federal grant to build the Forest Biomaterials Innovation Center, an extension of the PDC. These strategic investments align with FOR/Maine's recommendations for boosting Maine's forest economy and rural communities.