Three UK-based innovation and research projects secure £334k of funding, providing a much-needed boost to the UK reuse and recycling sectors.
Offering a total of £1million since its launch in 2019, the second and final round of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund kicked off with a call for entries in June 2021. It is the only such funding opportunity to be provided by a UK compliance scheme and builds on Ecosurety’s established experience in supporting innovative projects and new technologies across the waste and recycling sector.
The fund provides a visible funding route for companies, charities, not-for-profits, academic institutions and the public sector working on projects that can reduce the environmental impact of packaging, batteries or e-waste through innovation or research.
Accelerate the transition to a circular economy
The three funded projects tackle a diverse range of issues, including reducing avoidable packaging waste in the construction sector, enabling access to electrical repair and reuse for rural communities, and preventing landfilling of food contaminated plastic packaging.
Shortlisted applications to the Fund were judged by a high-profile panel of ten independent experts from business and non-governmental organisations, including Paula Chin, Sustainable Materials Specialist at WWF UK; Mark Miodownik, Professor of Materials and Society at UCL; Margaret Bates, Executive Director of OPRL; and Michelle Norman, Director of External Affairs and Sustainability, Suntory Beverage & Food Europe and GB&I.
The 2022 winning projects are:
Somerset Repair Bus
Aiming to take repair and reuse from a niche to a norm for rural communities, this project, led by Resource Futures in collaboration with Somerset Waste Partnership and Donate-IT, features a touring electronics skill-share and collection facility to promote sustainable electronic and electrical equipment consumption.
Travelling throughout Somerset, it will help to coordinate, facilitate and raise awareness of electrical repair and reuse across rural communities. Not only will it raise the standard and visibility of these activities across the region, but it will also create and share a blueprint of best practices for other regions to follow.
Sarah Hargreaves, Behaviour Change Lead at Resource Futures commented "There are a wealth of community groups across Somerset doing amazing work, but the breadth and rurality of the region makes it hard to extend reach to all communities. We hope this mobile resource will bring repair and sustainable consumption choices to every high street, help highlight the groups already working on the ground locally, whilst supporting them to extend their activities and reach."
The Alliance for Sustainable Building Products is leading this project to research and develop scalable solutions to help combat avoidable packaging waste in construction, a sector that is the second-highest consumer of plastics, much of which is not recycled.
Working with project partners Cullinan Studio, Bankside Open Spaces Trust, Mace and Morgan Sindall, the funded project will link with real-world construction projects to build case studies and offer future training and guidance that will demonstrate the positive actions the whole supply chain and sector can take, helping the construction industry reach zero ‘avoidable’ waste by 2050, eliminating all 'avoidable' plastic waste by 2042.
Simon Corbey, Director at ASBP commented "We’re delighted this project has been funded, as it will enable much-needed granularity of data for construction packaging, plus pathways for its reduction, which will be of real interest to government and the supply chain alike."
Large quantities of packaged food wastes are used as feedstock for renewable energy production via Anaerobic Digestion (AD). The packaging is separated from the food waste during processing but ends up heavily contaminated with food waste residues. There is potential to optimise this process by cleaning the packaging, making it attractive to recycle, with the additional benefit of capturing the residual food waste which enhances renewable energy production.
South West College in Northern Ireland is leading research into a novel process to efficiently remove the food waste from plastic packaging without using large quantities of water. Once separated, the aim is for both the food and the plastic to be effectively treated and recycled. The funding will enable them to achieve proof of concept with a prototype plant that will enable the process to be scaled up commercially.
Ashlene Vennard, Renewable Engine Post Doctoral Researcher at South West College commented "This exciting new project is one that South West College is truly passionate about, with our record in sustainability projects and our plastic recycling knowledge. Not only do we hope to solve the packaging and food waste problem to aid local industry, but we hope to provide a solution for any AD plants that deal with food waste feedstock."
"We are really looking forward to working with our partners at Ulster University and Granville EcoPark, combining our resources to prevent these waste streams going landfill."
Innovative projects that offer real solutions
Commenting on the winning projects, Will Ghali, CEO of Ecosurety said "The Ecosurety Exploration Fund has proven to be a vital launchpad for innovative projects that offer real solutions to some of the key problems we face today, with astounding results achieved by the first round of projects we funded."
"As before, the second round attracted a diverse and inspiring range of standout projects which made the job of the independent judges very tricky indeed. We look forward to seeing the three winning projects accelerate us towards a more sustainable future and we would like to extend our appreciation to everyone who either took the time to enter or helped us select the most promising projects to fund."
Some of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund judges commented:
"It was a privilege to be a judge on the Ecosurety Exploration Fund this year and the high standard of entries made it a very tough decision. Opportunities like this allow us to explore ideas that lead to greater collective action and better outcomes for people and planet, and - given the scale of the climate and nature crisis - this is critical."
Paula Chin, Sustainable Materials Specialist at WWF UK
"Judging the Ecosurety Exploration Fund was an inspirational experience. Funding for the winning projects will be instrumental in furthering our knowledge and insight of how to solve some of the UK’s most complex sustainability issues and I can’t wait to see the results."
Michelle Norman from Suntory Beverage & Food Europe and GB&I
All projects funded via the Ecosurety Exploration Fund can be viewed here. If you would like to know more about any of the funded projects, please contact our team.
Marketing projects specialist
Ben joined the team at the beginning of 2015 and helps drive marketing communications and projects for Ecosurety, including project managing the launch of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund and website content development.