We aim to enable reusable packaging systems that will reduce the need for single-use plastic. Building on Plastics: Redefining Single-Use, we seek to provide the research and connections between academia and stakeholders needed to enable reusable packaging systems
By now, the need for a step change in the way that we think about plastics is well established. However, plastic and packaging is a valuable commodity that should be reused. Specifically, waste from packaging is a big problem. For example, in the UK alone plastic waste from single-use packaging amounts to an estimated 2.3 million tonnes pa. Reusable packaging systems could address all these issues in accordance with the UK Plastics Pact.
This £1 million pounds project is funded by UKRI. You can find out more this funding award here.
Want to know more about plastic? Our experts worked with Clear On Plastics, a campaign from WRAP, on a series of videos about the history of single-use plastic ↓
To make reuse systems successful, both the environmental impact and the willingness of consumers to engage need to be considered. In order to do this our team has published a paper that looks at two studies. One is a life cycle assessment and the other an online survey.
The life cycle assessment indicates that reusable containers outperform single-use plastic containers on most measures of environmental impact. However, the survey found that given the choice of disposal, reuse or recycling, that recycling is the preferred method.
Additionally, the paper discusses further insights about what makes people more or less willing to engage with reuse. If you want to find out more, then you can read: Many Happy Returns: Combining insights from the environmental and behavioural sciences to understand what is required to make reusable packaging mainstream.
Many of the Many Happy Returns team took part in #GRIPS2021, as speakers, chairs and in the audience. This UKRI, KTN and UK Circular Plastics Network conference gathered together sustainability experts to share knowledge about sustainability. Keelan Meade, Tom Webb and Rorie Parsons were all speakers. And Racheal Rothman and Tony Ryan both chaired panels.
Packaging in Focus magazine celebrated the start of the Many Happy Returns project with an article by Sarah Greenwood. In this she explains why we need reusable packaging systems and how the MHR team will work to create them. You can read this for free online from page 9.
As with all our research, the Many Happy Returns team are from varied disciplines. For instance, we have people from the University of Sheffield’s English and Psychology Departments as well as chemists and engineers.
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. Find out more about the team.
Project partners include: Morrisons, Ocado, Co-op, M&S, Nestle, packaging manufacturer Berry Global, design agency Touch, and zero-waste store pioneers Unpackaged and OPRL (On Pack Recycling Label).
This project is a multidisciplinary one. That means we have experts from a range of fields working together to create reusable packaging systems. Our chemists and engineers will be conducting life cycle analyses to study reuse systems ‘from cradle to grave’ and therefore identify which systems confer the most benefit, for what and when. But what role does a linguist have in reducing plastic waste? And why are insights from psychology useful?
Well, a reuse system is no good if people won't use it. So, we will explore the language that is used by people and organisations to describe plastics and identify how language can be used as a tool to change behaviour.
Alongside this, psychology will help us to identify what people are willing to reuse, what factors influence these decisions, and at what point reuse becomes unacceptable.
Many Happy Returns (MHR) was announced in December 2020. The funding for MHR is 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.