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UK Businesses Back Government's Industrial Strategy to Develop Bio-based Plastics

UK Businesses are expected to jointly invest up to £149 million, alongside a £60 million government investment to help fight the global battle against single use plastics. This announcement is a part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy to develop sustainability and wider impacts of biodegradable, compostable, and bio-based plastics.

Joint Investment to Cut on Plastic Pollution

Funding could be used to find ways to cut waste in the supply chain, develop new business models and create new sustainable recyclable materials. The joint investment to cut on plastic pollution would allow new forms of packaging and plastic made from plants, wood chippings, and food waste could be a step closer. Using plants instead of oils to make plastic would help to reduce their carbon impact.

This forms part of the government’s Clean Growth Challenge – a key part of the modern Industrial Strategy - and follows the UK becoming the first major economy to legislate to end its contribution to global warming by 2050.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said, “We have all seen the enormous damage being caused by single-use plastics across the world. The government and business co-investment clearly demonstrates that when it comes to cutting plastics pollution there is a shared ambition. This is a unique opportunity for our world-leading businesses and innovators to develop the materials of the future with the potential to transform our economy as well as our environment.”

Dealing with a Rising Concern- Plastic Packaging

Around 80 million tons of plastic packaging is produced annually and if left unchecked, this is expected to triple by 2050. After a short first-use cycle, 95% of plastic packaging is lost to the economy.

Brands are increasingly acting on the need to shift away from single use plastics. Sainsbury’s has committed to removing 10,000 tons this year as well as removing plastic bags from fresh fruit and vegetables and introducing water refill stands in superstores. A supermarket chain has announced the removal of all plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables in Lincoln and Kidlington stores.

Judith Batchelar Director of Sainsbury’s Brand, “The plastics challenge is one of the greatest issues for our planet, so this fund will act as a catalyst for this ‘coalition of the willing’ to address the research and innovation opportunities together and Sainsbury’s is proud to play our part.”

Investment through the government’s modern Industrial Strategy is already backing the development of plastics made from plants, and products that degrade easily in an open environment. Companies behind these innovations include London-based start-up Skipping Rocks Lab, who have created new packaging made from Notpla, a material made from seaweed and plants that only lasts as long as it needs to. This material was used in a trial by Just Eat for their condiments and used as an alternative to plastic bottles at the London Marathon 2019.

A Call for Evidence

As part of this wider focus, the government today published a call for evidence on standards for these types of materials, known as bio-based and biodegradable plastics. It seeks evidence from scientists, manufacturers and the research community, on the sustainability and wider impacts of biodegradable, compostable, and bio-based plastics and asks whether new and improved standards and labeling for these materials would be valuable.


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