CPI UK collaboration looks to cut plastic waste and quicken biodegradability

CPI UK collaboration looks to cut plastic waste and quicken biodegradability

12 Dec 2018 --- The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is driving forward the development of food packaging that is less damaging to the environment by collaborating on a project to cut plastic pollution. The collaboration effort will develop next-generation packaging that continues to prolong the shelf-life of foodstuffs, such as meats and salads, but, crucially, they will be made from biodegradable materials designed to biodegrade in a natural environment.

CPI is using its polymer chemistry research and materials processing and characterization capability to support the development of alternatives to commonly used fossil-based polymers which cannot be consumed by nature. Conventional packaging options have therefore resulted in the continued pollution of land and seas when leaked to the natural environment.

Plastic packaging delivers a number of benefits, such as reducing food waste and enabling globalized distribution, however, waste mismanagement has resulted in rising global pollution, particularly in the world’s oceans, according to CPI.

The project has received funding from the Innovate UK program, “Plastics Innovation: Towards Zero Waste,” which promotes the development of new polymers, processes and recycling regimes to reduce the environmental impact of plastics while increasing UK productivity and economic growth.

CPI, working alongside Gateshead-based SME iPac Packaging Innovations, Avondale Foods, Cranswick Plc and its customers, will use its formulation and industrial biotechnology capability to develop new biodegradable packaging with better end-of-life options, such as composting and anaerobic digestion. If leaked to the environment, this packaging is intended to biodegrade quickly using Earth’s natural biological ecosystems.

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Dan Noakes, Business Manager at CPI, comments: “We need to adopt new thinking if we are to overcome the pressing issue of plastics-persistence in our natural environment. This project tackles the issue head-on. We hope to positively impact the sustainability of the food industry and influence environmentally-conscious purchasing decisions made by the consumer.”

Harry Reed, Managing Director at iPac Packaging Innovations, adds: “Currently, traditional polymers such as PET offer the most effective medium for food packaging, while their stable physical properties allow for recycling and re-use.”

“However, mismanagement of waste streams too frequently results in plastic pollution. Now is the time to analyze the way in which we use packaging materials and explore options that will give the minimum negative impact if leaked into the environment,” Reed says.

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