UK trailblazing sustainable packaging: Government invests US$76.4m

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06 Dec 2018 --- The concept of turning household food scraps into environmentally-friendly packaging for bags and cups has been given a huge cash boost as part of a package of sustainability measures awarded £60 million (US$76.4 million) in new UK government funding. It’s part of the UK’s plan to “lead the world in the development of sustainable packaging”. Innovators are rising to the challenge of reducing the impact of harmful plastics on the environment, as Britain seizes the chance to become a trailblazer in the global shift to greener and cleaner economies.

The new government funding is also for the development of smart labels on packaging which could end confusion over what rubbish goes in which recycling bin. Sustainable packaging with a living sell-by-date could show consumers when food is going off to reduce food waste. 

The latest government cash injection is part of Britain's modern Industrial Strategy launched almost a year ago as the UK’s post-Brexit blueprint for the economy.

The funding, to be bolstered by industry support, and delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund could help develop:

  • New forms of packaging and plastic – made from farming, food and industrial waste, like sugar beet, wood chippings and food waste – moving away from oil-based plastics.
  • Smart packaging labels – which, alongside a smart bin, could tell consumers the right bin to put recycling into and revolutionize the way recycling is sorted in waste plants.
  • “Live” sell-by-date patch – a living sell-by-date which deteriorates at the same rate as produce to show consumers when their food is going off – cutting down on food waste
  • Reducing single-use plastics – increasing the use of recycled plastic in new products.

Although this initiative is UK centric, there is an abundance of moves towards cutting down on food waste throughout Europe and the US. Globally the food waste issue has been in the spotlight for the last few years, gaining momentum as one of the key concerns of modern society.

Earlier this year, food waste research from theClick to EnlargeThe latest government cash injection is part of Britain's modern Industrial Strategy launched almost a year ago as the UK’s post-Brexit blueprint for the economy. US unveiled the shocking truths about the amount of food tossed out every day and it is people with healthier diets rich in fresh produce that are among the worst offenders. Fresh fruit and vegetables were the most likely to be thrown out, followed by dairy and then meat, according to the insights into the country’s food waste problems, carried out by US Department of Agriculture. The study revealed that the average American wastes 422g of food a day.

Meanwhile, the European Union has taken a vital step forward in combating the food waste crisis with Parliament setting ambitious reduction targets, while politicians support a series of measures concerning the treatment of waste in general (food waste, recycling and landfill) in a bid to moving towards a circular economy.

As the countdown to Brexit looms and it is still not clear whether the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement will be rubber-stamped by UK MPs – scheduled to vote in Parliament next Tuesday – the UK is aiming to make its own strides on reducing food waste. 

How Britain will or will not be influenced by European legislation on food waste remains to be seen. 

Businesses will be able to access this new funding through UKRI managed competitions to meet the challenge of developing smart sustainable plastic packaging. However, this investment is subject to industry entering into partnership with government and providing significant co-investment to this challenge.

PackagingInsights has asked the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, for more information regarding what is expected from industry in this regard. 

The UK government has also announced a strategy to help boost bioeconomy, setting out an ambition for world-leading standards for bio-based and biodegradable plastics, to create new sustainable materials and reduce the impact of plastics on the environment.

UK sales of packaging totaled approximately £11 billion (US$14 billion) in 2017, and this new innovation funding could help to boost the sector by a further £500 million (US$637 million) a year, with the use of packaging growing due to changing consumer behaviors such as the increasing popularity of online shopping.

“Finding innovative solutions to tackle our use of harmful plastics which blight our land and seas is a major global challenge, and opportunity – one our nation of researchers and innovators is fit to seize,” says UK Energy and Clean Growth Minister, Claire Perry.

“The funding and sector strategy enhances our position as a global leader in improving our environment and tackling climate change. It will make us a beacon for design, manufacturing and exporting of sustainable plastics and environmentally-friendly replacements for polluting products as we move to a greener, cleaner economy – a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy.”

It is estimated there are more than 150 million tons of plastic in the world’s oceans and every year one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste. A recent report estimates that plastic in the sea is set to treble by 2025.

By Gaynor Selby

This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst's sister website, PackagingInsights.

To contact our editorial team please email us at editorial@cnsmedia.com

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