The Resource Action Fund, launched by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in May, will pile investment totaling 4.7 mn pounds into two ambitious projects in a bid to transform the reprocessing and recycling capabilities of textiles and plastics.

Set to be managed by the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), grants will be available across the two sectors with applicants able to apply for 200,000 pounds to 1m pounds in total. The winning applicants will be those thought to have ideas that could boost the infrastructure for material reprocessing in the UK.

“There is a growing public alarm about the impact of plastic and textiles on our planet. To really tackle this, we have to shift from the prevailing make, use and dispose culture to a more sustainable one in which we keep resources in use as many times as human ingenuity can conceive,” WRAP Director Peter Maddox said at the Resourcing the Future conference in London, where news of the funding was announced.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey noted, “I encourage organisations to apply to WRAP for our multi-million pound grant to drive-up the recycling of plastics and textiles. We are committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse, recycle and cut waste. It makes no sense economically or environmentally for these valuable materials to end up in landfill.”

WRAP has split the grant allocation across the two subject areas in order to identify candidates best suited to drive meaningful changes in the recycling and reprocessing of plastics and textiles respectively. Lot One, the Plastics Packaging Recycling Grant Competition seeks to support projects that can cultivate more effective plastic recycling and reprocessing technologies capable of repurposes single-use products such as plastic trays, pots, films, pouches and food and pharmaceutical grade packaging.

It’s said that 40 per cent of all plastic produced in the UK is used in the packaging of goods, corresponding 2.4 mn tonne of plastic packaging waste. With these volumes often sent to landfills or incinerated, packaging represents a primary area of focus for innovators keen to get involved.

Lot Two, the Textiles Recycling Grant Competition, will place onus on increasing capacity for sorting, handling and reprocessing textiles, as fabric blends can prove challenging during textile recycling. Increasing the volumes to which textiles are collected and repurposed is imperative if objectives set out by the Resource and Waste Strategy and Circular Economy Package (CEP) are to be met. The UK’s market for the recycling of textiles however is limited and, at present shows little sign of growth potential unless a conscious effort is made to change that.

With the CEP requirement for separate collections of textiles by 2025, new processes and markets are needed to avoid separately collected items simply being discarded. Grants are a building block from which fledgling start-up solutions can look to gain a foothold in the industry and integrate more practical methods of textile disposal. Gains from both an environmental and financial viewpoint could be substantial.