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Business Regulation

UK government launches consultation on standards for biodegradable, compostable and bio-based plastics, as it unveils new sustainable materials fund.

“The race is on to develop new effective and practical solutions to end the scourge of single-use plastics, helping protect our planet for future generations.”

The UK government has launched a consultation on standards for biodegradable, compostable and bio-based plastics. It has also announced that businesses are expected to jointly invest up to £149 million, alongside a £60 million government investment to help invest in new plant-based plastics.

Yesterday (22 July), the UK government published a call for evidence on these biomaterial standards. It is hoping to seek evidence from scientists, manufacturers, consumers and the research community on the sustainability and wider impacts of biodegradable, compostable, and bio-based plastics. It is also aiming to ask whether new and improved standards and labelling for these materials would be valuable.

David Newman, Managing Director of the Bio-Based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA), told Bio Market Insights: “The BBIA welcomes this well-balanced document, which will help provide clarity on claims made by people about the biodegradability or compostability of their products. We are looking forward to contributing to it.”

With this consultation, the government is also aiming to identify gaps and provide expert advice on the existing relevant plastic degradation standards and how, or if, they might be promoted without any adverse effects to the environment and disposal routes.

The consultation closed on 14 October 2019.

New fund

Elsewhere, in a statement, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said that new business and government investment aims to provide a boost to new forms of packaging, including plastic made from plants, wood chippings and food waste.

The private sector is expected to cough up £149 million and the government is expected to invest £60 million in these new forms of packaging.

This funding forms part of the government’s Clean Growth Challenge – a key part of the modern Industrial Strategy – and follows the UK becoming the first major economy to legislate to end its contribution to global warming by 2050.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “We have all seen the enormous damage being caused by single-use plastics across the world. The race is on to develop new effective and practical solutions to end the scourge of single use plastics, helping protect our planet for future generations.

“We have put a record level of research and development investment at the heart of our Industrial Strategy – investing to support our best minds and businesses in developing the solutions and industries of tomorrow.”

He added that this government and business co-investment “clearly demonstrates that when it comes to cutting plastics pollution there is a shared ambition”. He also said that this was a “unique opportunity for our world-leading businesses and innovators to develop the materials of the future with the potential to transform our economy as well as our environment”.

According to BEIS, around 80 million tonnes of plastic packaging is produced annually and if left unchecked, this is expected to triple by 2050. After a short first-use cycle, 95% of plastic packaging is lost to the economy.

Brands are increasingly acting on the need to shift away from single-use plastics. UK supermarket retailer Sainsbury’s (@sainsburys) has committed to removing 10,000 tonnes this year as well as removing plastic bags from fresh fruit and vegetables and introducing water refill stands in superstores. Yesterday, the supermarket chain announced the removal of all plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables in Lincoln and Kidlington stores.

Judith Batchelar, Director of Sainsbury’s Brand, said: “The plastics challenge is one of the greatest issues for our planet, so (the) announcement is fantastic news for retailers like Sainsbury’s that are already committed to reducing single-use plastics.

“But this is an issue that affect all retailers and manufacturers so it’s only by working together that we can make genuine progress and significantly reduce the nation’s reliance on plastic. This fund will act as a catalyst for this ‘coalition of the willing’ to address the research and innovation opportunities together and Sainsbury’s is proud to play our part.”

She added that investment through the government’s modern Industrial Strategy “is already backing the development of plastics made from plants, and products that degrade easily in an open environment”.

Companies behind these innovations include London-based start-up Skipping Rocks Lab, who have created new packaging made from Notpla, a material made from seaweed and plants that only lasts as long as it needs to. This material was used in a trial by Just Eat for their condiments and used as an alternative to plastic bottles at the London Marathon 2019.


Bio Market Insights Issue #14If you were interested in this story, you may also be interested in the below ones.

Read: Bio-based industry gives lukewarm response to UK’s first bio-economy strategy.

Read: UK to launch call for evidence on development of standards for bio-based and biodegradable plastics.

Read: Japan pledges to promote plant-based bioplastics to tackle marine waste.

Read: Canada and Italy promote national bioeconomy strategies.

Read: Industry experts query whether bioplastics can solve the plastic pollution problem at sustainability conference.

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