UK Circular Plastics Flagship Projects Competition

A new £1.4 million flagship projects competition was launched at the inaugural annual meeting for members of The UK Plastics Pact, held in London on Thursday, 11 October.

The competition, which is managed by WRAP working in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), was one of several special announcements made at the Summit. This competition forms part of the £20 million Plastic Research and Innovation fund (PRIF) which was announced by the Chancellor during the Autumn Statement in 2017. It will engage Britain’s best scientists and innovators to help move the country towards more circular economic and sustainable approaches to plastics.

Grants will be awarded under the UK Circular Plastics Flagship Projects Competition to applicants who demonstrate creative business ideas to reduce the environmental impacts of plastic, and which bring greater circularity in the use of plastic.

Professor Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair, Natural Environment Research Council and PRIF lead for UKRI, explained;

“The Plastics Research Innovation Fund brings the strength of UK Research and Innovation’s entire portfolio, from environment to technology to business to behaviour and regulation, to bear on the pressing and very widely recognised problem of plastic waste. We are partnering with WRAP as experts in this sector, to join up our approach and support for the UK plastics and packing sector. The UK Circular Plastics Flagship Projects Competition launching today complements our recent funding calls by working with businesses to implement new ideas to achieve the targets set out in the UK Plastics Pact.”

Sam Gyimah, Science, Research and Innovation Minister, said:

“We’ve all seen heart-breaking images of sea creatures struggling to breathe due to plastic pollution and the Blue Planet effect has made it impossible to forget that plastics are a growing threat to our planet.

“Our ambition to clean up our environment has never been more clear on the eve of our first ever Green GB Week, and we are committed to exploring all methods to move from a use and dispose economy to use, reuse and recycle. Programmes like the Plastics and Research Innovation Fund give innovators the chance to develop creative fixes for one of our biggest global challenges.”

The UK Circular Plastics Flagship Projects Competition is open to ANY UK business with fresh ideas to tackle the issue of plastic waste. Grants will be awarded for between £100,000 and £500,000 subject to match-funding, to support the piloting and evaluation with a view to wider implementation. Businesses wishing to apply must consider projects in relation to the four central criteria: 

  • to reduce the total volume of plastic waste arising from the UK;
  • to significantly improve the rate of UK plastic recycling;
  • to reduce levels of confusion amongst citizens; and,
  • to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in the world’s oceans.

The 2018 UK Plastics Pact Summit was the first meeting of Pact members since the programme launched in April 2018, with more than 150 delegates from across the supply chain attending. New WRAP research and guidance were introduced which address key issues around plastic packaging, and with the collecting and processing of post-consumer plastics. They include ;

  1. Design tips for making rigid plastic packaging more recyclable: Produced in association with RECOUP this provides and highlights priority issues reported by those sorting and reprocessing rigid plastic packaging, together with solutions. The guide will help to ensure that packaging design choices minimise environmental impacts, limit the resources needed to produce packaging and ensure that packaging is recyclable. 
  2. National Recycling Guidelines – updated: WRAP’s definitive national guidance on what can and cannot be collected for recycling from UK householders has been expanded to include a new section dedicated to the collection of plastic films.
  3. Composition of plastic waste collected via kerbside: This report details compositional analysis of plastics received and produced by UK Material Recovery Facilities and Plastic Recovery Facilities. It provides an up-to-date estimate on the volume and type of post-consumer plastic packaging collected for recycling. The report underpins The UK Plastics Pact work to drive forward changes in polymer choice, plastic collections and sorting, and reprocessing.
  4. PlasticFlow 2025 – Plastic Packaging Flow Data Report: WRAP’s PlasticFlow 2025 details the current levels of UK plastic packaging placed on the market (POM) and recycled, and the potential future levels up to 2025. The report also assesses the probability of compliance with national and European recycling targets and demonstrates confidence in meeting these.
  5. Minimum thickness of plastic bottles to be recycled: this research assessed the impact of light-weighting plastic bottles on the sorting and recycling stages. It concluded that overall thin packaging was no more difficult to sort and recycle than thick packaging. However, it did identify that for rigid PET bottles there was a minimum thickness of 0.05mm, but this thickness was only present in less than 2% of the sample. The most important thing for effective sorting and recycling was how the bottles were presented; reaffirming that a bottle should be presented as empty and flattened with the lid on.

WRAP Chief Executive Marcus Gover highlighted key activities WRAP has coordinated over the first six months of the UK Plastics Pact , with industry speakers from across the plastic chain sharing innovations made to address common issues in plastic use. Said Marcus,

“I am delighted at the speed and level of commitment from The UK Plastics Pact in turning our ambition into action. We are on our journey to totally transforming the plastic system in the UK and tackling the urgent problem of plastic pollution. This starts with innovation, and I am delighted that we were able to announce the crucial support from partners like UKRI in funding new research opportunities.

“The world is watching, and we cannot fail. We know it is a complex challenge and we need to get the balance right – retaining the value of plastic whilst reducing the harmful effects of plastic waste on our environment. Today’s Summit has reinforced my confidence that we can achieve this. There is still a lot to do in a short space of time and we need to maintain the momentum, but I believe we have made significant strides forward on our journey to 2025.

“We have the collective will, from government, from business, and from all of us as citizens to lead the global fight against plastic pollution and change our relationship with plastic for good, forever. Together we are.”

The Summit was also a chance for delegates to focus on future work under The UK Plastics Pact, with a draft of the forthcoming UK Plastics Pact Roadmap shared ahead of publication. This sets out the key actions and intermediate milestones businesses, and other members, will need to achieve to deliver each target by 2025**, as well as highlighting the challenges ahead. Once finalised, Pact members and supporters should embed the Roadmap milestones into their corporate and organisational targets.

The Roadmap is due to be published later this year, and will also inform action by Governments, funders, investors, NGOs and businesses who are not members of The UK Plastics Pact.

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