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Updated: October 1, 2020

Poland Spring, UMaine to explore bio-based alternatives for packaging material

Photo/ Maureen Milliken Poland Spring was sold by Nestle as part of a $4.3 billion deal that included several regional bottle water companies.

A collaboration between Poland Spring Bottling Co. and the University of Maine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute aims to develop bio-based materials that could serve as alternative packaging for Poland Spring products. 

The goal is to use sustainably harvested Maine wood, according to a news release. 

The University of Maine is pioneering new renewable and sustainable wood-based materials and processes that can be used as an alternative to petroleum-derived products.

“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,” said David Tulauskas, vice president and chief sustainability officer of Nestlé Waters North America, parent company of Poland Spring.

The expanded use of forest-based biomass in areas such as packaging, infrastructure, equipment and biofuels is a key development objective for the Maine forest sector, according to Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council.

“Diversifying the uses of Maine-harvested biomass is essential to the growth and sustainability of our state’s forest economy,” he said. “UMaine is a longstanding partner in these efforts and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with them on this project.”  

Poland Spring began the collaboration to assess biomaterial technologies that could serve as alternatives, and the project evolved after Nestlé Waters North America sponsored a two-day bioplastics summit at the University of Maine in May 2019, which brought together stakeholders across Maine’s forest economy.

Nestlé Waters North America says its goal is to use 25% recycled plastic in its U.S. product portfolio by 2021 and reach 50% by 2025. Poland Spring announced it would be the first major bottled water brand in the U.S. to reach 100% recycled plastic across its still water portfolio by 2022. Some of the company's water bottles are already available in 100% recycled plastic.

Joan Ferrini-Mundy, University of Maine’s president, said: “Forestry is a cornerstone of Maine’s economy, and the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute was created to provide and promote technology validation and partnerships that will meet societal needs for materials, chemicals and fuels in an economically and ecologically sustainable manner.

"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.”

Earlier this week, Nestle Waters North America said it was pursuing certification that ensures its water is meeting certain standards both inside and outside of its bottling plant.

The Alliance for Water Stewardship certification application for the company's bottling operations in Hollis, Kingfield and Poland. The company also announced it is planning to create a 10kw solar array at its Hollis plant.

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