Many Happy Returns for plastic packaging

Many Happy Returns – our new project that rethinks plastic packaging – has been awarded £1 million pounds by UKRI.

As we all know, plastic waste is a big problem. And the waste from packaging is a massive part of it. For example, in the UK alone plastic waste from single-use packaging amounts to an estimated 2.3 million tonnes pa.

So, we need to rethink packaging. One way is to replace single-use packaging with multiple-use packaging. The possibilities of this kind of system change for packaging will be explored by the Many Happy Returns team.

Many Happy Returns: from recycling to reuse

Recycling has become the norm for addressing our problem with plastic waste. However, recycling is challenging and enables a throwaway culture. In order to change the focus from recycling to reuse Many Happy Returns will explore reusable packaging systems.

By keeping packaging materials in circulation for as long as possible, the environmental impact of packaging could be reduced. One result would be a reduction in plastic waste. Another would be a reduction in the overall impact of the packaged product.

Enabling reusable packaging systems

By identifying the best reuse model for different contexts, Many Happy Returns aims to make reusable packaging mainstream.

In order to do this this, MHR will explore the optimum materials, process and technologies for reusable plastic packaging systems. And they will develop practices to encourage reuse.

Most importantly, a main output will be a guide for businesses on how to implement reuse models, thereby helping them to achieve UK Plastic Pact targets on reuse and help consumers to minimise plastic waste.

Many Happy Returns continues the work of our special project Plastics: Redefining Single Use.

The team

As with all Grantham Centre research, the Many Happy Returns team represents diverse academic backgrounds. We’re delighted that we have people from the University of Sheffield’s English and Psychology departments joining the more familiar chemists and engineers. Further, this multidisciplinary team will work in partnership with packaging manufacturers and designers, brand owners, retailers and policy makers.

Sarah Greenwood and Grantham Centre director Tony Ryan lead this project with Thomas Webb. All three are part of the Plastics: Redefining Single Use group, likewise most of the rest of the team join MHR from that project.

Also joining Many Happy Returns are our associate director Rachael Rothman, Rorie Parsons, Harriet Baird, Joanna Gavins and Keelan Meade.

Project partners include Morrisons, Co-op, M&S, Nestle, packaging manufacturer Berry Global, design agency Touch, and zero-waste store pioneers Unpackaged and OPRL (On Pack Recycling Label).

Many Happy Returns in the media

Reusable Packaging – from green to grubby and back again? in Just Food



The funding

The University of Sheffield received the funding as a part of the Enabling Research competition in the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge (SSPP). SSPP aims to establish the UK as an innovator in developing sustainable plastic packaging, with a view to significantly reduce plastic pollution by 2025.

You can read the UKRI news story about this funding award here. If you want to stay up to date with Many Happy Returns then sign up to our newsletter.