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UK pumps millions into sustainable packaging projects

A UK government’s UKRI innovation agency has announced £30 million (EUR 27 million) in funding for 18 ‘ground-breaking’ collaborative projects to curb the generation of ‘avoidable’ plastic waste.

The Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) Challenge, supports the work of the UK Plastics Pact and each initiative has demonstrated a potential to transform the UK’s retail and packaging supply chains and support the development of more sustainable approaches to plastic packaging.

The successful large-scale demonstrator projects are focused on three key packaging challenges, reuse and refill; food grade polypropylene recycling; and film and flexible packaging recycling.

  • Refillable packaging project: Unpackaged brings together major supermarkets Morrisons and Waitrose, home delivery retailer Ocado and logistics experts CHEP. It will involve real world trials of a circular supply chain solution to scale up refill for in-store and online retail.
  • Return refill, repeat project: Beauty Kitchen in partnership with RBC Group (experts in logistics and automated retail) and the environmental charity City to Sea will deliver a trial of a pre-filled and returnable packaging scheme for liquid products.
  • Other projects: The other demonstrator projects will explore technology solutions that have the potential to significantly increase and enhance the UK’s plastics recycling capacity in challenging recycling areas such as film and food grade polypropylene. These projects are led by Plasgran, Fiberight and Impact Recycling.

The 18 projects also include business-led initiatives including novel separation, sorting and decontamination technologies; radio frequency identification and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to trace reusable food-grade plastic packaging; and new recycling-friendly coatings and barrier materials.

The SSPP Challenge is also announcing co-funding with £500 000 a collaboration with the Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging (Ceflex) initiative, a grouping of more than 180 European companies, associations and organisations representing the entire value chain of flexible packaging.

‘The government’s multi-million investment targets innovative projects to create packaging that can be refilled, more easily recycled, and made of materials that are far more sustainable for our natural environment,’ says UK resources and waste minister Jo Churchill.

‘We must all do more to tackle problem plastics and, through our landmark Environment Act, we will create deposit return schemes for drinks containers and encourage more recyclable packaging so that we can go further to reduce, reuse and recycle more of our waste.’

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