Grants boost UK research into less wasteful packaging

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wrap, Packaging

H J Heinz, Northern Foods, Geest Mariner Foods and International
Food Partners (IFP) are among those granted UK public funds
yesterday to develop less wasteful packaging.

The current tranche of about £500,000 (€728,000) in funding from government's Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is meant to encourage food and packaging companies to invest in more environmentally friendly containers for their products.

It's part of a programme to help companies meet EU-wide annual targets in reducing packaging waste. Last month the UK set higher minimum targets on packaging waste that will require businesses to recycle and recover ever increasing amounts of paper, glass, aluminium, steel, plastic and wood packaging.

New requirements set by the European Commission last year roughly double packaging recycling targets for the bloc's 25 members. The rules have put extra cost pressures on the food industry, which is a major producer of packaging waste.

WRAP announced grants yesterday for seven projects to reduce household packaging and food waste from an £8 million fund directed at sparking innovation by companies.

Heinz secured £250,000 (€364,000) in public funds to test out a lighter weight can on the UK market as part of the project. WRAP hopes the grant to the giant food maker will push the company to invest in a lighter and less wasteful baked bean can.

The light weight food can could reduce household waste by 28,000 tonnes per year if adopted across the industry, WRAP believes.

Marks & Spencer and Northern Foods received £38,400 to develop a reduced weight ready meal pack and to carry out consumer and market research into its commercial and technical feasibility. The project began on 7 November. Northern Foods has a contract with Marks & Spencer to manufacture the retailer's ready meals.

If all Marks & Spencer suppliers move to the new design, the estimated reduction in material used in ready meal packaging is forecast at 1,900 tonnes per year, WRAP said.

WRAP also granted Geest Mariner Foods £25,000 in funding to study the options available in producing lighter weight packaging for Waitrose's soups and sauces. The system could generate a savings of 644 tonnes in waste per year if adopted by retailers, manufacturers, packers and fillers.

Kite Packaging received £38,354 towards a project which aims to cut the amount of waste stemming from corrugated cardboard boxes.

Kite will attempt to replace heavy weight double wall cartons with ones made from a more advanced paper and flute combination without compromising on strength.

The funding will allow Kite to pay for the testing that will provide the technical evidence to demonstrate the cartons' ability to match or outperform the existing format.

"It is anticipated that savings in the region of 5,800 tonnes per year could be achieved if the new cartons are taken on as an industry standard,"​ WRAP stated.

WRAP also awarded £183,468 to fund a trial of what it calls a "unique concept" in sealing technology, jointly developed by International Food Partners (IFP) and Ceetak. The project has the potential to reduce household waste by about 22,000 tonnes annually across the grocery retail sector.

IFP, a consulting firm, and Ceetak are working on a sealing method that both saves on the amount of packaging material used when sealing flexible packaging materials and increases shelf life by creating a hermetic seal, WRAP stated.

IFP director Graham Clough said the two companies plan to test the technology with a number of suppliers of fresh produce and snacks. Should the trials prove successful, they anticipate using the sealing technology on products this summer.

Biopac also secured a £32,000 grant for a feasibility study into the potential reduction in household food waste through the adoption of advanced packaging technologies to extend the life of fresh produce. The project could cut down on 15,000 tonnes of household waste per year, WRAP stated.

Outpace received £26,000 to test reusable 'Carrierpacs' that can be used for the home delivery of B&Q kitchen worktops. If successful, the reusable system could reduce household waste generated by kitchen worktop packaging by 7,000 tonnes per year.

WRAP says the seven new projects have a potential to reduce packaging waste by a total of 311,000 tonnes a year if they turn out to be successful and are replicated by other companies in the retail sector.

"The projects address many of the leading product categories that contribute to household food and packaging waste as well as the technical and commercial feasibility and consumer acceptability of the innovations,"​ stated Mike Robey, the manager for WRAP's innovation fund. "If they are successful, we are confident that the retail supply chain will want to replicate the findings of this research, which could lead to significant reductions in household waste and cost-savings for the sector."

Launched in November 2004, WRAP's innovation fund aims to reduce the amount of household food and packaging waste originating from the retail sector and ends up in the household bin. The new contracts announced yesterday take the number of projects to seventeen, with a combined investment of about £2 million.

WRAP's research indicates that 40 per cent of the contents of the average household bin originates from supermarket shelves. WRAP has set targets to reduce such waste by 310,000 tonnes through the fund.

WRAP focuses on creating stable and efficient markets for recycled materials and products and removing the barriers to waste minimisation, re-use and recycling. A not-for-profit company, WRAP is backed by government funding from Defra and the related administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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