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UK to lead global innovation in sustainable plastics in drive to net zero

  • Businesses back Government Industrial Strategy challenge to cut plastics pollution with an expected £149m investment from the private sector
  • Funding could be used to find ways to cut waste in the supply-chain and create new sustainable recyclable materials
  • Announcement is part of biggest boost to R&D in UK history through the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy

New forms of packaging and plastic made from plants, wood chippings and food waste could be a step closer, thanks to new business and Government investment.

Businesses are expected to jointly invest up to £149m, alongside a £60m Government investment, to help fight the global battle against single use plastics.

Funding could be used to find ways to cut waste in the supply chain, develop new business models and create new sustainable recyclable materials.

This could include using plants instead of oils to make plastic, which will help 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 race is on to develop new effective and practical solutions to end the scourge of single use plastics, helping protect our planet for future generations.

We have put a record level of research and development investment at the heart of our Industrial Strategy – investing to support our best minds and businesses in developing the solutions and industries of tomorrow.

This 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.

Around 80 million tonnes 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 tonnes this year as well as removing plastic bags from fresh fruit and vegetables and introducing water refill stands in superstores. Today the supermarket chain has announced the removal of all plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables in Lincoln and Kidlington stores.