WRAP’s first International Grants competition, The International Circular Plastics Flagship Competition – developed and delivered in partnership with UKRI – has awarded funding of £1.2 million to six UK based innovators to work with international partners to tackle plastic related issues in India, Chile, South Africa and Kenya.
With Earth Overshoot Day highlighting the state of global resource depletion, these projects offer practical solutions to help reduce the environmental footprint made by the use of plastics. As WRAP puts it, the six projects will help towards transformation of the plastics system by stopping waste, addressing harmful emissions from new plastic production, and ensuring we keep plastic in the economy and out of the natural environment.
The International Circular Plastics Flagship Competition is a game-changing fund to drive forward international innovation in key regions across the world. The competition called for technical innovations to address specific challenges identified by the India Plastics Pact, Chile Plastics Pact, South Africa Plastics Pact and Kenya Plastics Pact. These included films and flexible packaging, reusable packaging, new business models and end market developments.
Dr Richard Swannell, International Director, WRAP, “Plastic pollution affects every country on Earth, blighting the lives of many of the poorest people. Working with UKRI and in-country partners, and through six innovative UK-based companies, we are funding projects that will focus directly on issues that affect India, Chile, South Africa and Kenya. These projects will address problems head on, and drive action towards delivering the challenging plastic targets of each country’s Plastics Pacts. We hope intervention on this scale will help bring a more circular economy model of plastic use to each nation, create income opportunities and help improve sustainability in the long-term.”
Paul Davidson, Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge Director, UKRI “Plastic pollution is a global issue, and UKRI is proud to be partnering with WRAP on The International Circular Plastic Flagship Competition to help deliver game-changing funding in selected countries around the world. Not only will this drive innovation, but it will also help address the specific challenges outlined in each country’s Plastics Pact. I look forward to seeing the collaboration and progression in sustainability.”
The International Circular Plastics Flagship Competition is designed to address the problem of plastics pollution in these key nations. Applicants applied for funding ranging from £50,000 up to £250,000 that demonstrated solutions to specific challenges identified by each Plastics Pact, and which will ultimately help reduce plastic pollution in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The partnership between WRAP and UKRI will be funding cutting edge technologies to UK based innovators with in-country partners, demonstrating some of the UK’s leading research and technological advances via the following activities:
- Chile: Notpla Limited will develop and expand its applications for its innovative seaweed-based heat sealable film as an alternative to flexible plastic films. The seaweed-based film is natural, and in certain applications even edible. The film is compostable and biodegradable on land and sea without human intervention. The film can be formed into single use sachets for a range of applications. In particular, the focus of this project will be on condiment single use sachets.
- India: three projects tackling plastics challenges in India include Interface Polymers Limited which will demonstrate the validity of its recycling additive technology, which enables multilayer films and mixed plastic streams to be effectively recycled into new products. This means multilayer film that currently goes to landfill will be collected, mixed with the additive and demonstrated in high performance film applications. A second project by ReVentas Limited will investigate the feasibility of coupling the ReVentas technology with an existing Indian milk pouch collection. The project will demonstrate the ability to decontaminate the material to a suitable level, such that it can be recycled and used in new packaging applications. A third project, LESS& Ltd, will explore the technical and economic viability of a low format, reusable packaging option that could be an alternative to sachets. It will examine the feasibility of a refill/reuse concept that eliminates the use of small format sachets/packs.
- South Africa: WasteAid UK will undertake a feasibility study and pilot project in Mpumalanga, which will adopt a whole systems approach to demonstrate an inclusive approach to closing the loop on plastic packaging by supporting local waste pickers to increase local collection, and employing behaviour change interventions to increase waste pickers access to recyclables, improving local processing capacity and developing local and regional end markets for recycled plastic.
- Kenya: TrueCircle Technologies Ltd will bring formal integration, market and pricing transparency, and fair-trade practices to the Kenyan waste sector and its informal waste collectors by utilising the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) waste-identification and composition analysis.
Dr Nandini Kumar, Consultant, Confederation of Indian Industry and Varun Aggarwal, Associate Director – Sustainable Business, WWF India “Innovation, collaboration and voluntary commitments contextualized for India will help the transition to a circular economy for plastics. The funding will enable India to scale up science-based approaches to the design and use of plastic packaging, facilitating the management of plastic waste while retaining its value.”
Dr Kirsten Barnes, South African Plastics Pact – Project Lead, GreenCape. “Through UKRI funding, Wasteaid aim to close the loop – recycling plastics collected in a local area into products to be sold locally. Not only will we see environmental benefits, but also further local income opportunities for waste pickers in collection and more income opportunities in processing, recycling and manufacturing. The creation of alternative income opportunities to coal mining and electricity generation from coal is a pressing need in Mpumalanga – a province facing large job losses as coal mines close and power stations are decommissioned in South Africa’s drive towards a just energy transition. We look forward to engaging with, and tracking, the progress of this worthwhile initiative”
Karin Boomsma, Project Lead, Kenya Plastics Pact -“It’s motivating to see the progress Kenya is making towards sustainability, and the vital role we’re playing at the Kenya Plastics Pact of initiating tangible actions led by members. These proactive actions are also encouraging businesses that are still largely operating in a linear economy – a model of simple resource extraction and depletion – to fundamentally rethink the way they design, use and reuse materials. We believe that a shift of focus to a circular economy – with innovations and business models, that design out waste, keep materials in use, and protect and restore our environment – is critical for Kenya’s transition to a more inclusive economic model.”
M. Fernanda Valdivieso, Chilean Plastics Pact Director, FCH – “We urgently and decisively need to move forward on the problem of plastic pollution, globally and locally. In the case of Chile, single-use plastics and flexible plastics are some of the main challenges in which we must advance. We appreciate and value having the support of UKRI and WRAP to test and implement solutions that allow us to tackle these problematic plastics in our country”.
Climate action NGO WRAP is redesigning the plastics system and working with partners around the world to tackle the issue of plastic waste. Leading the delivery of The UK Plastics Pact, WRAP and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have taken the successful model for change to establish a Plastics Pact on every populated continent.