Researchers from the University of Liverpool have secured £965,000 worth of funding awarded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) for a project that aims to make the plastic packaging for products such as shampoo bottles more sustainable.

The funding makes up part of the UKRI’s £8 million investment into sustainable packaging under its Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) Challenge, which is supporting 10 university-led projects across the country looking to tackle plastic pollution.

Liverpool University Department of Chemistry

Liverpool University’s project will look to make advancements on the use of post-consumer recycled (PCR) resin, which can be made by recycling High Density Polyethylene (HDPE).

HDPE is one of the most common plastics used in packaging, found in a wide variety of products including plastic bottles and shampoo bottles. HDPE can be mechanically recycled to produce PCR resin, which has a lower carbon footprint than new plastic.

The researchers hope that by replacing new plastic used in packaging with PCR, they can reduce the amount of unrecycled plastic in the market, which could help drive a circular economy approach and reduce greenhouse emissions.

Dr Tom McDonald, senior lecturer at the University’s Department of Chemistry, will lead the project. He commented: “This is an exciting project to be leading which we hope will provide the necessary technological advancements that will increase the incorporation of recycled plastic in packaging.”

“The project aims to better understand the chemistry and properties of post-consumer resin (PCR) through finding out more about how HDPE changes during recycling.”

“This knowledge can be used to invent ways of improving the post-consumer recycled plastic so that more can be used to make HDPE bottles. This change will result in less plastic waste, increased sustainability in plastic packaging and less harm to the environment.”

The team in Liverpool will collaborate on the project with academics from the University of Manchester, as well as Unilever and Bright Green Plastics.

The University of Manchester is also leading its own UKRI-funded project that aims to increase compliance with recycling by developing ‘one bin’ to hold all plastic-like items.

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