Household food scraps could be transformed into environmentally-friendly plastic bags and cups, thanks to up to £60 million of new government funding.
Innovators are being challenged to make the UK a world-leader in creating sustainable packaging and reduce the impact of harmful plastics on the environment, as the UK seizes the economic opportunity of the global shift to greener, cleaner economies – a key part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy.
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 revolutionise 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.
- Reduce single use plastics - increase use of recycled plastic in new products.
Businesses will be able to access this funding through UKRI managed competitions to meet the challenge of developing smart sustainable plastic packaging. This investment is subject to industry entering into partnership with government and providing significant co-investment to this challenge.
To mark the investment in sustainable plastic packaging, the government today also announced a strategy to help boost bioeconomy. It sets 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.
A year since the government launched its landmark modern Industrial Strategy – the UK’s post-Brexit blueprint for the economy – this new strategy sets out a vision for the UK to build on its world leading science and research base to become a global leader in finding innovative alternatives to fossil fuel-based products, using sources ranging from the by-products of whisky production to seaweed. This would enhance the UK’s position as beacon for investment in the bioeconomy, supporting innovation and stimulating economic growth.
It is estimated there are over 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans and every year one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals diefrom eating and getting tangled in plastic waste. A recent report estimates that plastic in the sea is set to treble by 2025.