The UK is set to lead the world in redefining sustainable packaging, through research and development funding for projects to create new waste-based plastics.

According to the government, the UK will be a pioneering nation in the development of sustainable packaging, on the back £60 million of new public funding.

Through the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge, innovators are being tasked with reducing the impact of harmful plastics on the environment, as the UK seizes the economic opportunity of a 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 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;
  • a ‘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; and
  • a reduction of single use plastics – increasing use of recycled plastic in new products.

The funding will be offered to business innovators in the UK for research and development projects aimed at developing waste-based plastics, as well as concepts which would enable manufacturers to use a higher proportion of recycled content in their plastic packaging.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry 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.

“… [This funding] 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.”

Funding will be awarded to projects on a competitive basis, with the government planning to launch the first round of the competition in early 2019.