Government unveils plans for business-backed plastics innovation hub

The UK government has confirmed plans to bring together businesses and research bodies from around the world to help tackle the scourge of marine plastic pollution.

Ministers confirmed yesterday that it is already working with the governments of Canada, India, and a number of other Commonwealth countries to launch a new £50m Marine Plastics Research and Innovation Framework designed to help experts “develop solutions to stop plastic waste from entering our oceans and find environmentally-friendly alternatives to plastic”.

An international steering board will oversee the work of the new group, but the UK is hoping to play a central role following Prime Minister Theresa May’s confirmation at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London that the government would provide up to £25m of funding.

The government also announced yesterday that it has secured the first wave of business funding for the initiative, with Unilever committing £5m in research and development funding and Waitrose pledging £500,000 of research funding.

Meanwhile, the British Plastics Federation, which represents more than 500 UK companies, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), RPC Group Plc and engineering giant Mott MacDonald are all expected to provide support, including access to their facilities, networks and expertise.

 Unilever chief executive Paul Polman said the group would help to encourage co-operation between the public and private sector as countries around the world seek to crack down on plastic pollution. “It is critical that governments, businesses and others from across the Commonwealth work in partnership to step away from our take-make-dispose model of consumption,” he said.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said the new hub would help tackle one of the world’s gravest environmental challenges.

“Plastics are not only polluting our waters, they are contributing to climate change and killing sea life,” she said. “With our funding, matched by research being developed by nations throughout the Commonwealth, this £50m Framework will help develop options for alternative uses to prevent plastics from ending up in our seas. It also ensures that the UK is at the forefront of encouraging the world to move towards clean growth, tackling the threat from marine plastics and protecting our oceans for future generations.”

The announcement comes just days after the government separately announced a new £200,000 research project at the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the University of Plymouth which will explore how microplastics from textiles, tyres, and other sources are impacting marine habitats.

The developments are the latest in a string of announcements as part of the government’s high profile ‘war on plastic waste’, which has seen Ministers consult on a raft of levies, bans, and recycling initiatives that are designed to drastically curb plastic waste levels.

SOURCE: Business Green