WRAP launches second round of £1.4 million circular plastics grant programme

The funding is in partnership with UKRI, and will award up to £150,000 to projects which “trial ways to implement refill infrastructure”.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has announced the second round of its £1.4 million grant funding programme in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The competition was first announced in December 2018 and has gone through one round of funding already. Awards for this initial stage were made last year, with the focus being on innovative ideas that could help us better recycle plastic and reduce waste.

Successful projects then included a new recycling technology called PolyChrome, developed by Impact Solutions and the Scottish Plastic Recycling Centre of Excellence, which could remove the colour and additives from plastic making it easier to recycle; and a novel packaging solution for Domestos brand bleach, developed by Unilever and the University of Liverpool, which contained at least 70% post-consumer recycled plastic.

This latest round of funding is targeted at innovative solutions for refill infrastructure across supply chains. Refillable packaging and infrastructure is of growing interest in the design world. Earlier this year, Cada associate client services director Lynn Harris predicted in Design Week that this would be a growing market in the future, and products like Morrama’s refillable deodorant have since found success in this space.

“Opportunity to challenge and change the status quo”

For this second round of funding WRAP and UKRI have set aside £475,000. According to a statement from WRAP on the scope of the competition, projects should have “strong commercial potential to reduce the use of single use primary plastic packaging”.

“Projects should offer significant opportunity to challenge and change the status quo, by changing the way retailers and their associated supply chain partners manage and design their supply chains in order to incorporate new refill options for their customers,” the statement continues.

The scheme is looking to fund projects that are collaborative, between retailers, manufacturers and supply chain partners. Ideas will need to be business-led, so that they can be informed by the real-life economies of refill infrastructure.

The scope of the challenge

For successful applications, the programme will award grants of between £50,000 and £150,000.

The scope of the competition is necessarily broad, to have the potential to tackle all facets of the challenge. However, the brief does suggest a number of areas that applicants may wish to focus on, including the possibility on implementing a service model, how AI and data might fit into the equation, how supermarkets currently not built for refillable containers might be rethought and how brand identity can be maintained throughout.

Additionally, WRAP points out the effect the coronavirus pandemic may have had on the situation. It asks: “Does COVID-19 provide a mindset that consumers want to know who has cleaned their container, which could drive refill?”

Achieving “zero avoidable plastic waste” by 2042

The Refill Infrastructure programme is part of the wider UK Circular Plastics Flagship Projects scheme. The aim of the initiative is to support the delivery of the UK government’s target of achieving “zero avoidable plastic waste” by the end of 2042, as well as the objectives of the UK Plastics Pact by 2025.

These objects include 100% of plastic packaging being recyclable, reusable or compostable and the elimination of single-use packaging by way of redesign, innovation or alternative delivery models.

The design world has already offered solutions and ideas to this end, such as Lucy Hughes’ Dyson Award-winning plastic alternative MarinaTex and the winners of the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize.

For more information on the competition, visit the WRAP website. Applicants have until 6 August to express interest in the funding.

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