Closing the loop for compostable packaging launches with £1.2m in funding from UKRI’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge.
The 10-partner coalition of industry, academia and infrastructure associations will examine the practicality of collecting, sorting and treating compostable packaging via existing bio-waste collection and treatment routes.
It will inform necessary government policy interventions to transit away from the current, almost absolute reliance, on single use plastic, of which nearly 50% cannot be or is not recycled.
Customers of online retailer Riverford Organic Farmers will participate in a take-back programme, while local residents of Milton Keynes along with shoppers across multiple cafeterias in London will be diverting compostable packaging with their food waste into proper food waste bins.
Packing producers TIPA, Futamura, Vegware and Biome will work to support the urgent removal of hard-to-recycle plastics from the market.
Hubbub and the University of Sheffield will lead the research on consumer behaviour.
EnVar, the largest composting facility in the UK and Paper Round/Recorra, an expert commercial recycling company will support the project, along with the trade associations REA and RECOUP.
It is the first project of its kind to examine the role of compostable packaging in transitioning away from single use plastics to meet key goals of the UK Plastic Pact: “100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging” with “70% effectively recycled or composted”.
Bio-waste partners will investigate whether compostable plastic can be sorted and processed to create high quality compost that can be applied to support soil fertility.
Results from the 24-month study will identify policy and legislative interventions to enable compostable packaging to address the global plastics challenge.
Kate Stansfield, Business Development and Commercial Director at EnVar said, “EnVar processes around 350,000 tonnes of organic waste each year to make PAS100 accredited compost. For a number of years now we have been successfully processing compostable packaging alongside our existing food and garden waste streams.
“EnVar welcomes its involvement in this project and looks forward to helping produce new data sets to evidence the benefits of this process, to secure the continued support for compostable materials from our industry and Government partners.”
David Proctor, Waste Services Client Manager, Milton Keynes said, “Milton Keynes Council have been collecting food waste successfully from residents for many years and are looking forward to working with this project by exploring how local residents can support the inclusion of compostable plastic in food waste bins.”
Nick Cliffe, Deputy Director, Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge said, “We are delighted to offer funding to the Capturing and Processing Compostable Packaging project led by TIPA.
“The research and innovation will further our understanding of how the best outcome for compostable packaging can be delivered in the UK and where these products fit within the sustainable packaging system which the SSPP Challenge seeks to support.”
Julia Schifter, VP Strategy Analysis at TIPA added, “We are confident the project’s findings can successfully signpost the policy and behavioural interventions that will reduce our dependence on hard-to-recycle plastic packaging and achieve the UK Plastics Pact goals.
“All members of the consortium would like to thank UKRI for its generous funding and support of this project.”