UKRI allocates £30m fund to plastic packaging alternative projects

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AUTHOR: Molly Long
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UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced the recipients of a £30 million fund to tackle unsustainable plastic packaging usage.

The money is part of UKRI’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) Challenge, which launched late last year in a bid to encourage and support new and innovative ways to rethink our relationship with plastic. The SSPP Challenge is the largest investment the UK Government has ever put in to finding plastic alternatives.

Plastic has long been in use in the food industry because of its versatility. However as the material is highly polluting and often non recyclable, action is being taken to reduce and remove plastic where possible, with several start-ups like TIPA and Apeel leading the way. 

A total of 18 ground-breaking and collaborative projects have been chosen for funding by UKRI – this includes a selection of large-scale demonstrator projects and business-led research and development initiatives. 

Unpackaged Systems is one of the large-scale demonstrator projects chosen for support. Awarded £3.7 million, this money will go towards what UKRI calls its “highly ambitious” refillable packaging project. The cross-sector project is being run inside select Morrisons and Waitrose supermarkets, as well as through home delivery retailer Ocado, and allows consumers to dispense and refill both liquid and dry products into their own reusable containers.

Australian company Cleanstream Technology has been awarded £4.4 million to support its work developing a food-grade recycled material from used polypropylene. 

Polypropylene accounts for around 20% of all the world’s plastic, according to Cleanstream, and is used throughout the food industry to make trays, tubs and pots. Currently, no approved food-grade method for recycling and reusing the material exists. 

Israeli start-up TIPA will be leading one of the research projects funded by UKRI. The initiative will see 11 partners focus their attention on demonstrating how compostable packaging can be effectively collected and treated in the UK. 

Plant-based plastic alternative maker Xampla will oversee another research initiative alongside beverage company Britvic and meal kit company Gousto, assessing how vegetable-based materials could be used to stem the use of plastic in sachets included in at-home meal kits. 

Challenge Director for UKRI’s SSPP Challenge, Paul Davidson, said of the projects: “The key to the design and development of this funding competition, along with fostering cross-supply chain collaboration, is to encourage and support ambition at a scale that matches the size of the plastic packaging problem.

“If successful, these projects have the potential to rewrite the relationship we all have with plastic packaging.”

Full details of all of the successfully funded projects can be found on the UKRI website

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