Collaborating for change


Solving the challenge of plastics and recycling requires a multi-pronged approach and our Sustainability team recently partnered with the Soft Plastics Recycling scheme and Auckland University students by holding a competition to come up with new and innovative ways to reuse soft plastics. 

Fonterra’s Director Category, Strategy & Innovation, Mark Piper says, “reusing plastics is a global opportunity that needs a new mindset and innovative ideas to help find solutions.” 

Soft plastics were the focus of the contest because they are less likely to receive a second life and the students were challenged to find New Zealand’s next outlet to use them.  

The winning team ‘For What it’s Earth’ presenting their solution to judges

23 teams were given a week to come up with innovative ways to solve the challenge to create a product/service concept that will enable a greater demand for recycled soft plastics here in Aotearoa.

The five finalists then presented their solutions to a panel of judges including Malcolm Everts, Chair of the Soft Plastics Scheme and Fonterra’s Mark Piper, Sarah Bayliss (Fonterra Packing Innovation Manager) and Lee Stewart (Fonterra’s Head of Corporate Sustainability). 

“It was really encouraging to see the depth of talent and ideas presented. These were real-world, practical solutions to a real-world problem and it was great to see,” Lee says. 

Lance Zhang and Kelly Ding from the team ‘For What It's Earth’ took out the top spot with their concept for modular furniture for primary schools. The team said, "this competition really challenged us to rethink New Zealand’s plastics problem, to use innovative design thinking and to (literally) think outside the box!” 

These were real-world, practical solutions to a real-world problem and it was great to see.

Lee Stewart, head of corporate sustainability, fonterra

Judges chose their solution because it considered the entire packaging life cycle, replaced existing plastics with recycled ones and found a feasible outlet for a large volume of recovered soft plastics. It also had the added bonus of educating children and teachers about the benefits and uses of recycled materials.

The 23 entries produced a wide range of inventive solutions, including pest traps to help New Zealand reach its aim of being pest-free by 2050 and even a substitute for the glue that holds together solar panels.  

The judging panel made up of representatives from Fonterra and Soft Plastics Scheme

The winning team ‘For What it’s Earth’ with their prize

The judges were encouraged by the incredible solutions a new generation of students were able to come up with for the plastics challenge. The competition not only helped to encourage them to think of real-world applications for new thinking, but also exposed the students to the opportunities of a career at Fonterra. Well done!