£475K for Refill Infrastructure projects announced in second round of UK Circular Plastics Flagship Projects grants

WRAP has announced Round 2 of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) competition to find innovative solutions to plastic waste. £475,000 will be awarded in Refill Infrastructure grants of between £50,000 – £150,000 for projects that trial new ways to implement refill infrastructure within an existing or new supply chain.

Successful projects in Round 2 will have strong commercial potential to reduce the use of single use primary plastic packaging. Assessors 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.  

The competition is part of the £20 million Plastic Research and Innovation Fund (PRIF), managed on behalf of UKRI by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Innovate UK, with delivery by WRAP. The schemes entered for the competition must be business-led and collaborative between different groups, organisations or individuals and must be completely new and untried in the UK. Four projects were awarded a total of £920K in the first round and are due to be completed  in 2020.  An Expression of Interest stage for Round 2 is now open with a closing date of 6 August,

The second round of funding was announced at an online workshop hosted by Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) and UK Circular Plastics Network (UKCPN) held on 25 June, aimed at supporting companies and research organisations that are interested in sustainable packaging projects. Key points raised during the workshop included:  

  • The potential to look at refill where recycling is not an option, for example detergents and cleaning products;
  • Possibility of incorporating a service model;
  • Increased functionality of the package or product to drive implementation;
  • Does COVID-19 provide a mindset that consumers want to know who has cleaned their container, which could drive refill?;
  • How AI and big data might fit into reverse logistics both within and across companies; 
  • Supermarkets are built for current supply chains and space is a major limitation to storing refillable containers; 
  • The full life cycle analysis should always be considered; and
  • Brand identity needs to be retained. 

Peter Maddox, Director, WRAP UK said: 

“The first round of this competition identified innovative projects that will bring huge benefits in terms of reducing and recycling plastic waste. Now we are concentrating on the  crucial role that re-usable and refillable packaging formats have  to play in this respect. I am excited to see what new solutions will be created as a result.”  

Paul Davidson, Challenge Director of the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge at UKRI said: 

“UKRI’s challenges are all about fostering cooperation between government, industry and academia and we hope to see some truly innovative and collaborative submissions to this challenge. This competition will contribute to our overall goal of establishing the UK as a leading innovator in sustainable plastic packaging techniques and of delivering cleaner growth across the whole supply chain.”  

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