Solo Cup in Conyers celebrates company's 75th birthday

CONYERS -- The company probably best known for the red party cup is throwing a party of its own in honor of its employees. Solo Cup in Conyers will recognize its workers with a picnic Tuesday in celebration of the company's 75th anniversary.

The employees-only picnic, dubbed "The Big Solo BBQ," is part of the company's anniversary celebration that has been ongoing throughout the year at the company's locations across the U.S. and in Canada.

As part of its anniversary celebration, Solo sponsored a Solo All-American BBQ Recipe Contest that was open to Solo's 7,000 employees in the U.S. and Canada. Their creations have been featured at The Big Solo BBQ events all across North America.

Solo has even put together a BBQ sauce cookbook compiling the best of the employee submissions, including the 1st Place winner, which was submitted by Rodney Ellington of Thomaston, Ga. Of the 18 recipes included in the cookbook, five were submitted by employees in Georgia. Three of those employees are from the Conyers area: Lisa Phillips, who works at the Conyers and Social Circle locations; Janice Waldrop, from the Conyers location; and Kevin Jones, also from the Conyers location. The cookbook is available on the Solo website at www.solo.com.

Mark Baxter, manager of communications for Solo, said The Big Solo BBQ events are designed to honor the hard work and loyalty of all Solo employees.

There are currently about 400 employees at the Solo plant in Conyers, according to Baxter, where the company makes cold cups, plates, straws and cutlery. About 65 people are employed at the Solo distribution facility in Social Circle, he said.

Glenn Sears, executive director of the Conyers-Rockdale Economic Development Council, had high praise for Solo as a corporate citizen.

"They are simply an outstanding company with a brand that is strongly recognized throughout the world," said Sears. "Just having the name and the brand in the community is a good thing, but beyond that they employ at the Conyers location 380 employees in manufacturing, and that is outstanding."

When the old Sweetheart Cup Company was purchased by Solo in 2004, Sears, who was then a member of the Rockdale Board of Commissioners, said keeping the company in Conyers was a top priority.

"We went in and scrambled to make sure we were one of the locations that Solo remained in, and as we met with the Solo people, it was just instant goodwill on both sides," Sears said.

Sears also praised the local operation for its involvement in the community and the school system and for its adoption of the Georgia Work Ready program. "They are just an exceptionally highly valued part of the community for a lot of different reasons," said Sears, adding that the city of Conyers and Rockdale County will issue a joint proclamation in honor of Solo's anniversary at the Board of Commissioners meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

While the Conyers plant opened in 1967, the company's history dates back to 1936 when Leo J. Hulseman established the Paper Container Manufacturing Company in Chicago. According to the Solo website, in the 1940s the company began manufacturing a paper cone cup known as the Solo Cup, for which the company was renamed. That cup addressed the consumers' need for hygiene and convenience.

Over the years, the company continued to develop products to meet the changing needs of the consumer. In the 1950s, Solo introduced a two-piece wax-lined cold cup used for serving cold drinks at drive-in theaters throughout the U.S. The signature red plastic cup was introduced in the 1970s, and has remained a mainstay for the company ever since. Solo's Traveler hot cup lid has been recognized for its form and function by the Museum of Modern Art and named to the museum's permanent collection.

Solo also recognized the movement toward more environmentally-conscious consumers in 2008, introducing its Bare by Solo product line, the industry's first full line of "green" single-use products for restaurants and consumers using recycled, recyclable, compostable or renewable materials, according to the company.

In recognition of its 75th anniversary the company launched a new national recycling effort for its flagship selling product, the plastic Solo Squared party cup. Along with TerraCycle, Sole created the Solo Cup Brigade in which individuals and organizations collect the used cups and return them to TerraCycle for recycling. For every cup recycled 2 cents is donated to the non-profit or school of the Brigade member's choice.