UKRI launches final sustainable plastic packaging competition

The government-funded Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge (SSPPC) has launched the last of eight competitions aimed at “making the plastics supply chain more circular”.

Flexible plastics collection is set to increase, with legislation coming in 2027

The SSPPC is a £60 million programme spanning over five years funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which makes it the largest government investment to date and has funded 57 projects so far.

The last competition, titled Future Plastic Packaging Solutions Round 2, was published yesterday (20 September) and will offer £2.5 million for projects seeking grant funding from £30,000 to £250,000, closing on 9 November.

Those applying will need their project to meet three main themes. These are the prevention, mitigation or measurement of plastic packaging litter polluting the environment; facilitating and scaling the adoption of reuse, refill and prefill packaging systems; and, chemical recycling approaches for PET packaging.

Nick Cliffe, deputy director of the SSPPC, told letsrecycle.com: “We weren’t expecting to be able to do this competition, but we were able to bring together the last pot of money.”

Nick Cliffe, deputy director of the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge

“We expect to be funding projects that are still at a more of an early stage, which we can hopefully come back to in a few years. Most of the funded projects are still running. In a couple of instances, technology has been proven to work but still needs funding. We expect to see some projects that we funded earlier come back on this competition on the next stage.”

Chemical recycling

Chemical recycling has been a “huge focus”, with SSPPC aiming to support the scale.

The jury is still out on chemical recycling of PET overall, Mr Cliffe continued, but for non-bottle, low-grade material, “we don’t know enough to know”. In some cases, things need to be done on a decent scale, otherwise the data is very theoretical, he added.

“Part of our job is to fund those higher-risk ideas. Some of them might not work but at least we’ll know. If every funded project worked, we’re probably not funding risky enough projects,” Mr Cliffe said.

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Commenting on today’s opening of the fund, SSPPC director Paul Davidson added: “In building the SSPP project portfolio, we have been aiming for a balanced approach that targets some of the key barriers to increasing the reduction, reuse and recycling of plastic packaging.”

“For this competition, we are looking for bold and ambitious innovation proposals that keep the value embedded in plastic packaging in the economy, and out of the natural environment.”

More details on how to apply can be found here.

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