£60m Funding For “Environmentally-Friendly” Plastic Alternatives

Household food scraps could be transformed into “environmentally-friendly” plastic bags and cups, thanks to up to £60m of new government funding, it has been announced today (5 December).

The funding, to be bolstered by industry support, and delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, could help develop new forms of packaging and plastic – made from farming, food and industrial waste, like sugar beet, wood chippings and food waste – moving away from oil-based plastics.

It could also help develop:

  • smart packaging labels – which, alongside a smart bin, could tell consumers the right bin to put recycling into and revolutionise the way recycling is sorted in waste plants
  • ‘live’ sell-by-date patch – a living sell-by-date which deteriorates at the same rate as produce to show consumers when their food is going off – cutting down on food waste
  • reduce single use plastics – increase use of recycled plastic in new products.

Businesses will be able to access this funding through UKRI managed competitions to meet the challenge of developing smart sustainable plastic packaging.

This investment is subject to industry entering into partnership with government and providing significant co-investment to this challenge, it says.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry – “Finding innovative solutions to tackle our use of harmful plastics which blight our land and seas is a major global challenge, and opportunity – one our nation of researchers and innovators is fit to seize.”

To mark the investment in sustainable plastic packaging, the government today also announced a strategy to help boost bioeconomy.

It sets out an ambition for “world-leading standards” for bio-based and biodegradable plastics, to create new sustainable materials and reduce the impact of plastics on the environment.

Last year, UK sales of packaging totalled around £11 billion and this new innovation funding could help to boost the sector by a further £500 million a year, government says, with the use of packaging growing due to changing consumer behaviours like the increasing popularity of online shopping.

This new strategy aims to set out a vision for the UK to build on its “world leading science and research base” to become a global leader in finding innovative alternatives to fossil fuel-based products, using sources ranging from the by-products of whisky production to seaweed.

This would enhance the UK’s position as “beacon for investment” in the bioeconomy, supporting innovation and stimulating economic growth, government says.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said: “Finding innovative solutions to tackle our use of harmful plastics which blight our land and seas is a major global challenge, and opportunity – one our nation of researchers and innovators is fit to seize.

“Today’s funding and sector strategy enhances our position as a global leader on improving our environment and tackling climate change. It will make us a beacon for design, manufacturing and exporting of sustainable plastics and environmentally-friendly replacements for polluting products as we move to a greener, cleaner economy – a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy.”

It is estimated there are over 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans and every year one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals diefrom eating and getting tangled in plastic waste. A recent report estimates that plastic in the sea is set to treble by 2025.

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  1. There is no such thing as ‘environmentally friendly’ – everything the human race does is environmentally damaging to planet earth to some degree. At best we can try to be less environmentally damaging.

    Plastic does not have a life of its own. Plastics do not throw themselves in the gutter or the beach nor into the sea – the human race does that.

    The most inspiring statements in this article are ‘revolutionise the way recycling is sorted in waste plants’ and ‘increase use of recycled plastic in new products’.

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