£8 million investment in sustainable packaging

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced that 10 university-led projects will receive £8 million of funding to tackle plastic pollution under the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) Challenge.

Food packaging wasteAmong universities that have won funding are the University of Strathclyde, the University of Manchester and Brunel University, all of which entered the Enabling Research competition as part of the SSPP Challenge. Winners will work with industry partners on their projects.

The Challenge aims to establish the UK as an innovator in developing sustainable plastic packaging, with a view to significantly reduce plastic pollution by 2025.

The University of Strathclyde will use the funding to develop food packaging using compostable plastics, with the aim of increasing plastic packaging reuse as much as possible.

The University of Manchester will aim to improve compliance with recycling through creating value in plastic packaging waste streams and making recycling simpler for consumers.

Brunel University’s project will see new management of waste streams to allow food grade and non-food grade materials to be kept separate, to address the problem of ‘hard-to-recycle’ plastics.

Other projects include developing food packaging from naturally derived sources, such as wood and plants (University of Cambridge’s ‘SSPP from Plants’), exploring historic and contemporary models of reuse (University of Sheffield’s ‘Enabling reusable packaging systems’) and understanding the role of plastic packaging in people’s lives (University of Lancaster’s ‘Bridging the consumer attitude-behaviour gap).

Paul Davidson, Challenge Director of the SSPP Challenge, said: “The Enabling Research projects are a huge step forward in enabling the UK to find better solutions to existing problems in how plastic packaging is made, used and disposed of. [The Challenge] aims to fundamentally change how we package and recycle items for the benefit of the environment.

“This funding will help experts from across the country address the important issue of making plastics more environmental-conscious. We look forward to hearing the outcomes of this project investment and how this will benefit both the UK and global environment.”

To date, UKRI has made £60 million available to support the SSPP Challenge under its Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund – £20 million of which was invested in recycling technologies last month. The funding has been matched by a £149 million industry investment.