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GLASS WORKS: Packaging Student Outreach

September 1, 2010
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To educate future packaging decision-makers about the environmental and technical benefits of glass as a packaging material for food and beverages, the glass packaging industry, through the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), has been part of the university classroom since 2003. As early as 1995, the glass container industry wanted to tell the “glass story” to students at packaging schools, which serve as the bridge for many students to employment at consumer products companies. Initially, GPI member companies conducted occasional lectures at interested schools.

In-Class Lectures Start the Discussion

A more aggressive approach began in 2003, when an industry professional was dedicated full-time to the program and started contacting schools and making connections with faculty. Rick Bayer, who manages the GPI’s academic program, is a 40-year veteran of the glass container industry; he is experienced in glass container manufacturing, quality assurance and product safety.

Bayer gets rave reviews for his in-class instruction. The program is now up to 10 schools, providing 43 lectures for the 2009/2010 academic year and student attendance of nearly 1400. Michigan State University, Clemson, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Florida, University of Wisconsin–Stout, Mohawk College, Cal Poly–San Luis Obispo, and San Jose State University are all currently on the lecture schedule. In addition to these packaging schools, the GPI added lectures at Parsons New School of Design and Pratt Institute in 2009.

Lectures are offered on topics such as Glass Fundamentals, Light Weighting of Glass Containers, Surface Treatment of Glass Containers, Glass Container Retail Trends, Glass Container Design Criteria, Decorating and Labeling Techniques for Glass Containers, and Recycling Glass Containers.

Glass Packaging Labs

To build on class lectures, the GPI is currently setting up lab sessions at University of Wisconsin–Stout and Cal Poly–San Luis Obispo. Using measuring equipment donated by glass container manufacturers and suppliers, students will be able to understand the different specifications for glass bottles. Donations also include glass molds, glass containers, closures and raw material displays. In addition, the GPI is in the process of working with the Cal Poly Food Science Department to supply glass containers and labels for in-class student projects.

Plant Tours

Beyond the classroom lectures and labs, a handful of schools located near glass bottle manufacturing plants can opt to provide students with an opportunity to tour a glass bottle manufacturing plant. “These are always eye-opening for students, as they never forget that first exposure to molten glass,” says Bayer. “And they’re a fun change from the classroom.” The GPI helps arrange four to five student plant tours a year.

Team Design Competitions

One semester each year for the past four years at Michigan State University, the GPI has helped support a glass packaging design competition among teams of classmates. This effort has yielded a big boost in glass knowledge and some innovative glass bottle designs. It’s also given winning students the chance for recognition; Best Buy certificates; and an invitation to attend Owens-Illinois’ (O-I) Glass University, a two-day glass packaging “immersion” program. The GPI is exploring expansion of the competition to include multiple schools.

Online Tools

Plenty of “bonus” learning is available online at GPI’s website, www.gpi.org. Building on an educational CD-ROM retired in 2008, web information includes everything from an interactive glass plant tour to brand building and glass recycling. More web-based learning is planned for the future.

Winning Partnership

The GPI is proud of this pioneering and effective education initiative. Its success is built on the support of glass container manufacturers and suppliers to the industry, as well as engaged professors who bring their students and an open mind to learning about glass bottles and jars. It’s a hearts-and-minds winning partnership.

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