Can you turn food waste into sustainable plastic packaging?

Up to £60m is being provided for competitions to tackle the global plastic pollution problem

By Priyanka Shrestha

The government is providing up to £60 million of new funding for projects that could turn household food scraps and industrial waste into environmentally-friendly plastic packaging.

It intends to invest the money in businesses developing new forms of packaging and plastic, made from farming, food and industrial waste like sugar beet, wood chipping and food waste, in an effort to move away from oil-based plastics.

Other products could include smart packaging labels, alongside a smart bin, that tell consumers the right bin to put their recycling into and sustainable packaging with a ‘live’ sell-by date which deteriorates at the same rate as the produce, showing consumers when their food is going off.

Businesses developing such products will be able to access the funding through competitions managed by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to meet the challenge of developing smart and sustainable plastic packaging and tackle the global pollution problem.

It is estimated there are more than 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans and every year one million birds and more than 1,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

The investment is subject to industry entering into partnership with government and providing “significant” co-investment to this challenge.

Last year, sales of packaging in the UK totalled around £11 billion and this latest funding is expected to boost the sector by a further £500 million a year.

The government has also announced a strategy to help boost bio-economy, setting out an ambition for standards for bio-based and biodegradable plastics to reduce the impact on the environment.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said: “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.

“Today’s funding and sector strategy enhances our position as a global leader on 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.”

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