The UK Government has unveiled a GBP4.7m ($5.95mn) fund to help boost the recycling of plastic packaging and textiles – and is seeking innovative ideas to back. Its new multi-million pound scheme is offering grants of between GBP200,000 and GBP1m for projects that boost the recycling of textiles when they have reached the end of their life. It is also looking for solutions to hard-to-recycle plastic packaging such as plastic trays, pots, plastic films and pouches. For textiles this could include machinery for recycling textiles, technology for disassembling or sorting textiles, automated processes for removing items from textiles such as zips, and technology to sort textiles by fibre type and colour.

In 2015, there were 300,000 tonnes of clothing in the UK going to landfill or incineration – and the government says textiles is a key priority area for action as it moves to place greater responsibility on producers to make their items easier to reuse and recycle. “We are committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse, recycle and cut waste,” says Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey. “Valuable waste ending up in landfill makes no sense environmentally or economically. We are making progress but there is more to do, and I encourage organisations to apply for our multi-million pound grant to drive-up the recycling of these valuable materials.” Among wider measures already announced by the government are a rise in plastic bag charges, a ban on plastic straws, drinks stirrers, and plastic stemmed cotton buds from April 2020, and a ban on microbeads.

And earlier this year it consulted on a tax on plastic packaging that does not contain a minimum of 30 per cent recycled content from April 2022 to cut the use of virgin plastics and encourage more sustainable packaging. The grants will be managed by WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme), which says that between 2012 and 2017 signatories to its Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) have seen a 14 per cent drop in clothing thrown away, as well as a more than 11 per cent drop in carbon footprint per tonne of clothing, and a more than 17 per cent drop in water usage. The European Clothing Action Plan, led by WRAP, aims to divert over 90,000 tonne of clothing waste from landfill and incineration across Europe by December 2019.