A unique project aimed at modernizing the way consumers relate to recycling was named the winner of the inaugural Recycling Innovators Forum, held in conjunction with this week’s Resource Recycling Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

For photos of the event, click here.

The group behind the winning effort, Earth911, Inc., received a $20,000 honorarium to help bring the project to market.

The idea beat out nearly 50 other proposals that were initially submitted to the forum. Of those, nine finalists were chosen, and on Aug. 26, project representatives for the finalists presented their recycling-related visions to a panel of judges.

GreenMantra, a project that makes industrial waxes from recycled plastics, was awarded second place and a $5,000 prize. The $2,000 third-place award went to PointGuard Pallet Protector, a product made from recycled plastic which aims to extend the lifespan of shipping pallets.

However, the judging panel, made up of industry leaders from various aspects of the recycling business, was most impressed by the Earth911 proposal. The idea has the potential to transform recycling by placing barcodes on recyclable products that can be scanned by smartphones. Consumers would be taken to landing pages that lay out all the specifics of recycling the product, tailoring information to a user’s specific location.

Brenda Pulley, vice president of recycling programs at Keep America Beautiful and one of the judges for the event, said she was impressed by the number of fresh ideas that the innovators discussed in their presentations. “It is encouraging to review the range of creative proposals designed to capture more materials into the recycling system, as well as processing related proposals designed to expand and improve the recovery of materials,” Pulley said. “It provides further evidence that progress continues to be made to identify more value out of the recovery of materials which will justify additional investments.”

The proceedings wrapped up the first incarnation of the Recycling Innovators Forum, which was sponsored by Alcoa, The American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division, Coca-Cola Recycling, eCullet, Resource Recycling, Inc. and Waste Management, Inc. The long-term goal of the annual event is to foster invention, originality and measurable improvement in recycling customer experiences, processes, technology and markets.

William Caesar, president of recycling services and organic growth at Waste Management, said events and programs that help fuel innovative thinking are key to the development of recycling programs across the globe. “The inbound stream is becoming more complex and our customers want a higher percentage of waste materials recovered – innovation will help the industry to address this challenge,” Caesar said. “By providing a forum to surface the best and most actionable ideas for technical advancement, our industry can identify ‘game changers’ more quickly and move them down the path of commercialization.”