Eco-friendly plastic bags and cups could be created from recycled household food scraps, with £60m of new government funding.
As part of the government’s Industrial Strategy – the UK’s post-Brexit blueprint for the economy – innovators are invited to meet the challenge of developing smart, sustainable plastic packaging.
They will be able to access the funding through competitions managed by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), with the investment subject to industry providing significant co-investment to this challenge.
The funding for sustainable packaging innovation could help develop:
• New forms of packaging and plastic – made from sugar beet, wood chippings and food waste
• Smart packaging labels – which, alongside a smart bin, could revolutionise the way recycling is sorted in waste plants
• ‘Live’ sell-by-date patch which deteriorates at the same rate as produce to show consumers when their food is going off
• Reduce single-use plastics
With more than 150 million tonnes of plastic polluting the oceans, and a recent report estimating that plastic in the sea is set to treble by 2025, one million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals die from eating plastic or getting tangled in the harmful waste.
The UK government is committed to being a global leader in tackling the issue of plastic pollution, with a world-leading ban on microbeads and 5p charge on single-use plastic bags, which has seen distribution by major supermarkets drop by 86 per cent.
It also launched its plan, earlier this year, to ban the distribution and sale of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds to protect our rivers and seas.
Claire Perry, energy and clean growth minister, 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.”