Innovate UK has recently launched the latest Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) funding competition[CM1] . The challenge seeks to address widely known problems related to plastic packaging for consumer products e.g. minimising plastic packaging, behaviour change leading to less packaging waste or higher recycling rates.
Plastics continue to shape our lives in many ways, from packaging of consumer goods to construction materials and light weighting transport. Plastics are all around us and here to stay, which is also the main problem – particularly when it comes to packaging. Plastic packaging performs many crucial roles in our modern life from ensuring food safety standards to providing hygienic medical products. But as most people now realise, the industry needs to make the UK plastics packaging supply chain more circular. According to Plastics Europe 86% of plastic packaging in the UK is recovered, but only one third of plastic packaging is recycled, despite consumers being more eco aware. Less than half the plastic goods which are recyclable are actually recycled. Innovation is needed across the plastics value chain to minimise the environmental impact of plastic packaging while maintaining the many benefits plastic packaging deliver.
A key challenge we face in moving to a more circular plastics supply chain is the shear variety of plastics in use. Polyethylene (PE), predominantly used in packaging, is the most common plastic in use. Over 100 million tonnes of polyethylene resins are produced annually, accounting for 34% of the total plastics market. Polypropylene (PP) and Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are also widely used in packaging. The automotive and constructions sectors routinely use Polyurethane (PUR) and other thermoplastics. The more compounds used in a plastic product the more difficult it is to recycle. So where do we start?
The UK Plastics Pact was developed to bring together businesses from across the plastics value chain with UK governments and NGOs to tackle the blight of plastic waste. Supporters of the Pact are collaborating to create a circular economy for plastics, capturing their value by keeping them in the economy and out of the natural environment driven by four aims:
eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (reuse) delivery model.
Plastics are an integral part of many supply chains and ensuring their continued use where the benefits remain unparalleled requires the industry to focus innovation on prevention, preparing for reuse, recycling, other recovery. In 2018, of the 5 million tonnes of plastic recyclates produced in Europe, 80% re-entered the European economy to manufacture new products. The remainder was exported outside Europe to re-enter other regions of the world’s economies. It is imperative the sector addresses some critical issues to continued plastics use and find innovative solutions that continue to strengthen the plastics value chain.
UKRI have recognised the importance of plastics and invested in The Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) challenge - part of the ISCF wave 3 - to develop a new generation of advanced and sustainable plastics packaging to reduce single-use plastics, increase recyclability and recycle rates. The challenge aims to establish the UK as a leading innovator in sustainable plastic packaging for consumer goods.
The ISCF Smart Sustainable Plastics Packaging Business-led R&D competition opens this month with £7m available for grants between £200k to £4m. All projects must help deliver the UK Plastics Pact and describe in detail how they will reduce the UK plastic packaging overall environmental impact.
Applications must focus on one or more of the following sustainable plastic packaging themes:
Are you a trailblazer with a ground-breaking sustainable plastics project idea? Could your project eliminate problematic plastics, reduce the total amount of packaging on supermarket shelves or stimulate innovation and new business models? Grant funding is competitive. Maximise your chance of securing a lucrative R&D grant by engaging with our experienced team of professional grant writers today.