‘Addressing the Plastics Challenge’ Reception at House of Lords
Posted on 04/07/2019
Tuesday 25th June 2019, Knowledge Transfer Network and Innovate UK held a private event at the House of Lords titled ‘Addressing the Plastics Challenge’. The event, hosted by Lord Simon Haskel, was proudly sponsored by the UK Circular Plastics Network. We were hugely fortunate to be blessed by warm weather on the terrace and there were plenty of opportunities for networking for the 100 or so delegates at the invite-only event as they enjoyed the views over the Thames from Westminster.
The event was particularly topical given David Attenborough’s recent address at the Plastics Oceans UK parliamentary event, sentiments which he echoed in front of 100,000 people at Glastonbury Festival. In fact, the nation has been swept up in recent measures around the country to tackle the issue of plastic waste. Nowhere is this more evident than in Oxford, where at a branch of Waitrose, Unpackaged and Waitrose have collaborated to run ‘Unpacked’, an 11 week in-store rest which sees hundreds of products on sale without their packaging.
Lord Simon Haskel, Deputy Speaker, House of Lords, opened proceedings with his welcome address, in which he discussed ways we can find to manage plastic waste and welcomed the audience to the House of Lords. He was followed by Sue Dunkerton, Interim CEO of KTN, who provided an update on the Knowledge Transfer Network, demonstrating the company’s commitment to driving innovation and facilitating collaboration across a diverse range of industries. Sue also demonstrated the value of UKCPN and the activities of the Network since its inception, including Pitchfest and our Business Club meetings in Portsmouth and Huddersfield.
It was fantastic to also be joined by Geraint Davies, MP for Swansea West, who outlined the dangers of microplastics and took questions from a very-engaged and passionate audience, who sought further governmental measures to tackle the environmental impact of plastic pollution. Helen Bird from WRAP then outlined the UK Plastics Pact, explaining that 76 businesses have joined up to the Pact with an aim of 100% of all plastics packaging produced being recyclable/compostable by 2025.
Nick Cliffe (Innovate UK) provided an overview of UKRI Activities. He discussed the devastation caused by plastic waste in the ocean with the recent discovery of a plastic bag at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. He also praised the work of Unpackaged in Waitrose as one such measure which can go a long way to reduce the effects of single-use plastics, and it was great to see Catherine Conway, the founder of Unpackaged, amongst the attendees.
Professor Tony Ryan of the University of Sheffield, gave an insight into how the 8 Plastics and Research Innovation Fund (PRIF) grants can help us go in the right direction towards eliminating plastic waste (you can read more about this here), while Professor John McGeehan, Director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at the University of Portsmouth, presented on how they are designing enzymes to break apart plastics.
A further presentation from Pierre Paslier, co-founder of sustainable packaging company, Skipping Rocks Lab, explained how their company looks at the use of seaweed in packaging (which is both sustainable and edible) to replace single-use plastics, through the support and funding from Innovate UK. Meanwhile Santiago Navarro (Garçon Wines) and Simon Chidgey of MH Plastics, discussed their collaboration into a post-consumer recycled PET flat wine bottle, a product which is lighter than glass which is especially important in the era of increasing e-commerce use.
The UK Circular Plastic Network’s Programme Lead, Dr. Sally Beken, went through UKCPN’s future activities as a close to the talks, and thanked all attendees and speakers for a wonderful event. Lord Haskel’s Closing Address provided an opportunity to reflect on the day’s presentations, with a further reminder to sign up to MRE 2020.