The new UK government grants scheme has been set up in order to fund solutions for ways to reuse some of the hardest plastic items to put through recycling

Recycling drop-off in the UK (Wikimedia)

Recycling drop-off point in the UK (Credit: Wikimedia)

The UK government has set up a £4.7m plastic grants scheme, in an effort to help boost the recycling of packaging and textiles.

From today (12 June) until 2 August, organisations in England can apply for government funding to provide innovative solutions to drive up the recycling of hard-to-recycle plastic packaging such as plastic trays, pots and tubs, plastic films and pouches.

The fund, run in partnership with circular economy charity the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), is looking for innovations in sorting or segregation equipment, and smarter systems to enable the sorting of different polymers.

recycling grants
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Life Opportunities Thérèse Coffey (Credit: Wikimedia)

Environment minister Thérèse Coffey said: “We are committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse, recycle and cut waste.

“Valuable waste ending up in landfill makes no sense environmentally or economically.

“We are making progress but there is more to do, and I encourage organisations to apply for our multi-million pound grant to drive-up the recycling of these valuable materials.”

 

How will the UK government’s £4.7m recycling fund work

Applicants to the UK government and WRAP’s Resource Action Fund will be able to apply for funding from £200,000 to £1m out of one of the two grant lots.

The first of these is the Plastics Packaging Recycling Grant Competition, which seeks to support new projects that will provide new infrastructure and technologies to help significantly increase recycling capacity and capability for currently difficult-to-recycle plastic packaging such as plastic trays, pots and tubs.

This grant will align with the work of the UK Plastics Pact, which was launched in 2018 to bring together UK businesses across the plastics supply chain to tackle plastic pollution by transforming the way plastic is used, made and disposed of.

The second lot is the Textiles Recycling Grant Competition, which aims to support projects involved in the reprocessing of textiles waste from municipal sources.

recycling grants
Peter Maddox, director of WRAP (Credit Twitter, @PeterJMaddox)

Launching the funds yesterday, WRAP director Peter Maddox said: “There is a growing public alarm about the impact of plastic and textiles on our planet.

“To really tackle this, we have to shift from the prevailing make, use and dispose culture to a more sustainable one in which we keep resources in use as many times as human ingenuity can conceive.

“Modernisation is key to making this happen and I am delighted that this significant amount of money is being made available to unlock and enable that process.

“I’m really excited to see what the applicants will bring to the table.”

 

Government fund is a positive step, says recycling company CEO

Advanced Sustainable Developments, recycling grants
ASD CEO Ahmed Detta (Credit: ASD)

Ahmed Detta, CEO of recycling innovations company Advanced Sustainable Developments, told NS Packaging that he sees the move as a positive step, as the government is recognising the plastics issue needs to be resolved.

He added: “What this fund shows is the UK has taken some respectable waves in changing legislation and policy around plastics and recycling.

“However, £4.7m is a very small amount.

“While it’s great there is this fund, how long is that going to take to implement?

“Government should be prioritising behavioural change over innovation.

“Once there is consumer buy-in, innovation will naturally evolve and businesses will step in.”

recycling grants
Chair of LARAC Carole Taylor at the Packaging Innovations conference in March 2019

Carole Taylor, chairwoman of the UK’s Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), added: “LARAC welcomes this funding and supports the development of better sorting processes and end markets for hard to recycle materials.

“Without viable end markets and sorting capacity, local authorities cannot collect these types of materials for recycling.

“We feel this is a positive step to help towards increasing the amount we are able to recycle nationally.”

 

What else has the UK government been doing to reduce plastic waste?

The fund follows on from further commitments made by the government to reduce the impact of plastic, including a ban on plastic straws, stirrers and plastic stemmed cotton buds by April 2020.

It also introduced a tax on plastic packaging for any product that does not contain a minimum of 30% recycled content from April 2022.

Alongside this, the UK government committed to invest £61.4m in August 2018 to boost global research and help countries across the Commonwealth stop plastic waste entering the oceans.

Michael Gove, food labelling guide, reusing plastic water bottles, recycling grants
UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove (Credit: Policy Exchange, Flickr)

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said at the time: “When it comes to our seas and oceans, the challenge is global so the answer must be too.

“Through this ambitious alliance we will build on the UK’s world-leading microbeads ban and 5p plastic bag charge [which will soon become a 10p charge] to harness the full power of the Commonwealth in pushing for global change and safeguarding our marine environment for future generations.”