ORONO, Maine (AP) — The University of Maine's Forest Bioproducts Research Institute is partnering with Poland Spring to develop materials that could be used for alternative packaging, officials said Tuesday.

UMaine will explore new possible uses of materials derived from sustainably harvested Maine wood that could help Poland Spring move away from petroleum-based, nonrenewable plastic.

“UMaine is grateful for Poland Spring’s support of our world-leading research, development and commercialization in this area,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, University of Maine President.

Poland Spring has been under pressure over its plastic bottles.

It announced last year a plan to use 100% recycled plastic for all its noncarbonated water containers, a move that comes amid growing concern about plastic pollution.

The migration to recycled containers comes as the bottled water industry faces continued criticism over its use of plastic, much of which ends up as trash or litter.

Maine sees a win-win from Poland Spring's efforts to use wood for a sustainable packaging.

Diversifying the uses of Maine-harvested biomass is essential to the growth and sustainability of the state’s forest economy, said Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council.

Poland Spring, which is part of Nestlé Waters North America, operates three Maine bottling plants in Poland, Hollis and Kingfield, and employs 900 workers in Maine.

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