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Management Side

$1.6M donation will accelerate progress within the pulp and paper industry

Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) has donated $1.6 million to the University of Maine to establish the UMaine Sustainable Packaging Initiative.

The UMaine Sustainable Packaging Initiative is a research-based public and private consortium that focuses on using forest-based materials to accelerate the transition to renewable and recyclable packaging made from forest fiber.

"As a UMaine graduate, I am happy to be part of PCA's involvement in the UMaine Process Development Center. This investment will enable the PDC to expand research and development activities and industry support to include packaging grades. Sustainable packaging represents a huge potential for the paper industry; it is exciting to be a part of this change both as a PCA employee and a UMaine advocate," said Barbara Hamilton, senior director of process control technology at PCA.

PCA's donation will support the university's Process Development Center (PDC). The PDC is a unique, open-access research facility that offers research and development technical services and resources in traditional pulp and paper, as well as emerging process technologies and material science. Funds will provide infrastructure improvements and new equipment to foster growth in becoming the leading R&D/pilot production lab for renewable packaging in the U.S.

"This gift is transformative for the PDC," said center Director Colleen Walker. "Not only will the PDC be better able to serve company and university researchers developing and commercializing new forest-based solutions for packaging, but we are engaging our Black Bear students in this process to provide hands-on research learning experiences."

PCA's donation will also help leverage the $75 million matching challenge grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation to support the Maine College of Engineering and Computing, a signature initiative of UMS TRANSFORMS. The initiative is focused on attracting thousands of new engineering and computing students to the state and expanding educational opportunities in emerging fields such as artificial intelligence, renewable energy and advanced materials. The Maine College of Engineering and Computing is a statewide, integrated solution to providing the technical workforce and innovations critical to moving Maine's economy forward and improving R&D for state-based industry.

"We are grateful to PCA for this generous gift that will allow the continued support of research and innovation at the University of Maine," said UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy. "This gift will position us as a world leader in sustainable packaging, as well as offer research learning opportunities to current and future students."

PCA is a long-time supporter of UMaine through the UMaine Pulp and Paper Foundation. The foundation supports aspiring engineers who are interested in pursuing careers in the paper industry.

"The UMaine Pulp and Paper Foundation's students have long benefitted from the extraordinary vision of PCA and its CEO and Chairman, Mark Kowlzan," said UMPPF President Carrie Enos. "We are proud to connect PCA with our partners at the PDC as the University of Maine continues to build its reputation as a leader in cutting-edge uses for forest fiber."

PCA's donation is just one of several investments recognizing the leadership of the state and UMaine in the national forest sector. In October, Maine was designated a Forest Bioproducts Advanced Manufacturing Tech Hub by the Biden-Harris Administration through the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration. In March, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and U.S. Sen. Angus King announced they had secured $10 million in one-time Congressionally Directed Spending to build and equip the Forest Biomaterials Innovation Center, an extension of the existing UMaine Process Development Center, to enable researchers and entrepreneurs to develop new forest-based products utilizing wood and wood residuals. These investments represent many of the recommendations from FOR/Maine to create jobs and economic opportunities for Maine's forest economy and rural communities.



 


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