Funding boost for refill solutions and technology

Almost £0.5m is available for new projects designed to help scale refill options and reduce reliance on single-use packaging.

Round two of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) competition, delivered by Wrap, includes “refill infrastructure” grants of between £50,000 and £150,000, up to a total of £475,000.

Assessors said they are looking for “inventive proposals that will challenge the status quo and change the way retailers and their suppliers operate, so that their customers have new options to buy products in refillable containers”. Successful projects will have “strong commercial potential to reduce the use of single-use primary plastic packaging”.

The deadline for applications is August 6th.

The funding was announced at an online workshop hosted by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) and the UK Circular Plastics Network (UKCPN). Attendees discussed how Covid-19 could have changed the way consumers feel about refill schemes, and whether the pandemic will stimulate or stall progress.

Four projects were awarded a total of £920,000 in the first round; and these are due to be completed in 2020. They included a pilot to increased recycled content in non-food packaging and a new recycling technology that can remove colour and additives from polyethylene and polypropylene.

The new funding is the latest boost for research into ways to reduce plastic packaging.

In June, a £200m sustainable innovation fund was launched by the government, which includes money for “the latest reusable packaging materials” or research into “sustainable biodegradable packaging”.

Some £33m is also being used to support a consortium led by the National Institute of Agriculture Botany EMR at East Malling to increase investment in emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation and smart-packaging for food production to help improve efficiencies and reduce waste.

The UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge has up to £60m to invest in projects that “aim to make the UK a leader in smart and sustainable plastic packaging”. Innovate UK, part of UKRI, has up to £37m from the fund to invest in demonstrators and early-stage projects investigating ways to reduce, reuse or recycle plastic packaging.

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