Food Innovation Centre offers sustainable packaging advice


Food and drink manufacturers in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are being urged to take advantage of free advice about the latest developments in sustainable packaging ahead of new regulations which are expected to come into force in two years.

Reform of the UK packaging EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) system is likely to be introduced in 2023, along with a Plastic Packaging Tax – and experts at the Food Innovation Centre say that now is the time to look into the sustainable packaging options that are available.

The Food Innovation Centre, based at the University of Nottingham, has drafted a fact sheet on the subject to help food and drink manufacturers in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire choose the sustainable packaging that best suits their products.

“Packaging offers many essential functions such as protection, containment, preservation, information and branding,” explained Dr Daniele D’Agostino, research fellow at the Food Innovation Centre.

“It’s an essential part of modern retailing. Without packaging, goods’ choice could be reduced, as could quality, freshness, shelf-life, and convenience.

“However, the total volume of packaging in the UK economy has grown enormously, representing a significant proportion of the domestic waste stream. Consumers have become aware of the issues surrounding waste, single-use packaging, and plastic pollutions and are demanding more sustainable solutions. Hence, packaging manufacturers and retailers face the challenge of preserving and enhancing packaging functionality while reducing its volume, increasing the amount reused or reprocessed, and developing more sustainable products.”

Daniele and the team at the Food Innovation Centre have worked with a range of SMEs in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire to offer advice on ways to introduce sustainable packaging, including most recently a tea company and a food delivery business.

“Consumers are asking for a reduction in packaging and more sustainable options, so it makes good business sense to cut the environmental impact of packaging, as well as being the ethical thing to do,” said Daniele.

“If you start looking at the sustainable options available now and you know that in the future you want to switch to a more sustainable choice, you can incorporate any additional costings into your business plan.”

The fact sheet drafted by the Food Innovation Centre outlines the pros and cons of some of the key packaging materials used by the food and drink sector, such as glass, metal, paper and cardboard, plastic, composite and bio-plastic.

Experts at the centre can elaborate on the options available and their suitability for different food and drink. They are offering free bespoke sustainable packaging advice and support to eligible SMEs under the Driving Research and Innovation project – a three-year project that runs until the end of December 2022. Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) via the D2N2 LEP, the project is run by the Food Innovation Centre at the University of Nottingham School of Biosciences, in conjunction with the Chemistry Innovation Laboratory in the School of Chemistry and Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and in association with the Midlands Engine. It is a unique collaboration project that provides free specialist innovation support to small and medium-sized businesses.

Richard Worrall, who runs the Food Innovation Centre, based at the Bioenergy and Brewing Science building at the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington campus, said: “Our role is to support food and drink SMEs in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire with a range of expertise to help them grow and develop. Sustainable packaging is high on the environmental agenda and we are delighted that Daniele D’Agostino, who is an expert in sustainable packaging, is part of our team offering help to local food and drink manufacturers.”