Resource Use

WRAP announces funding for UK refill infrastructure projects

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has announced that £475,000 of funding has been made available for refill projects in the second round of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) competition.

With funding coming from the UK Government’s Plastics Research and Innovation Fund (PRIF) as part of the UK Circular Plastics Flagship Projects, the competition will award grants of between £50,000-£150,000 to projects that trial new ways of implementing refill infrastructure in existing or new supply chains.

Refill infrastructure aims to reduce the use of single-use packaging by facilitating the widespread use of reusable and refillable containers. Projects that succeed in the second round of WRAP’s competition will have strong commercial potential to reduce single-use plastic packaging, ultimately aiming to change the way retailers and suppliers operate by providing customers with the opportunity to buy products in refillable containers.

WRAP is particularly interested in projects that promote refill where recycling is not an option, such as with detergents and cleaning products, and the possibility of incorporating service models rather than product models.

WRAP has been working with the government-backed UK Research and Innovation department for some time, during which the UK Circular Plastics Network (UKCPN) was set up and the UK Circular Plastics Flagships Projects, a £1.4 million grant programme, was developed.

The latest round of funding was announced at an online workshop hosted by Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) and UKCPN.

The schemes entered to win the grants must be business-led and collaborative between different groups, organisations or individuals and must be completely new and untried in the UK. Four projects were awarded a total of £920,000 in the first round and are due to be completed in 2020. 

Peter Maddox, Director at WRAP, said: “The first round of this competition identified innovative projects that will bring huge benefits in terms of reducing and recycling plastic waste. Now we are concentrating on the  crucial role that re-usable and refillable packaging formats have  to play in this respect. I am excited to see what new solutions will be created as a result.”

Paul Davidson, Challenge Director of the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge at UKRI said: “UKRI’s challenges are all about fostering cooperation between government, industry and academia and we hope to see some truly innovative and collaborative submissions to this challenge. This competition will contribute to our overall goal of establishing the UK as a leading innovator in sustainable plastic packaging techniques and of delivering cleaner growth across the whole supply chain.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has raised issues over refill and reusables, with much of the public unsure about the health and hygiene risks associated with reusables at this time. While the future of reusables has been called into question, environmental activists fight to maintain the use of reusables in cafes and supermarkets.

The Expression of Interest stage for the second round is now open, with a closing date of 6 August, and can be found on the WRAP website.