Many Happy Returns aims to enable reusable packaging systems and so reduce the need for single-use plastic.
Recycling has become the norm for addressing plastic waste. But recycling is challenging – and it encourages a throwaway culture. Instead of recycling, Many Happy Returns (MHR) explores reusable packaging systems. By keeping packaging material in circulation for as long as possible, reuse systems could reduce the environmental impact of plastic.
Our team will research consumer reactions to reusable packaging and the role of language in encouraging reuse. Also they will examine the technical and scientific basis for making reusable packaging. Plus they will work closely with manufacturers, designers, brand owners, retailers and policy makers.
You can stay up to date with all our Many Happy Returns enabling reusable plastic packaging news by following us on Twitter.
Want to know more about plastic? Our Many Happy Returns team and Clear On Plastics, a campaign from WRAP, have created a series about the history of single-use plastic ↓
Professor Rachael Rothman (GCSF Director and MHR PI) gave evidence in person as well as written evidence. And MHR's Sarah Greenwood, Dr Rorie Parsons, and Professor Thomas Webb all gave written evidence too.
One of the key conclusions of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee report is a call for a ban on the export of all plastic waste from the UK by 2027.
Rachael explained why a ban on exporting plastic waste is so important. 'If we want to be a world leader in sustainability, we must act like a leader and set an example for other countries to follow - this starts by ending the practice of shipping our plastic waste abroad for other countries to deal with.'
Find out more: MPs and Sheffield researchers call for ban on all plastic waste exports.
We partnered with the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group and the Sustainable Resource Forum for an all-party roundtable on reuse. Find out more.
Our director and member of Many Happy Returns Prof Rachael Rothman talks plastics to Deborah Meaden on The Big Green Money Show.
Rachael appeared on the season finale episode: Tackling Plastics and Greenwashing. You can find details and a link to the show here.
In this fairly long chat with the hosts, Rachael talked about range of issues to do with plastics. Reuse, recycling and greenwashing all got a lot of airtime, plus glass vs plastic milk bottles and why bioplastics might not be as good as they seem.
It was great to see Many Happy Return’s Sarah Greenwood talk about plastic recycling on BBC Panorama. On the program Sarah explained why some types of plastic are so hard to recycle.
You can watch Sarah talk plastic recycling on Panorama on the BBC iPlayer.
Recycling: Where Does My Rubbish Go?
Rachael spoke at UK Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee about the move towards zero ‘avoidable’ plastic waste.
Rachael told the committee about findings from Many Happy Returns and stressed how proper life cycle analyses need to be done before moving to alternative plastics.
Find out more here.
The MHR team and Accommodation & Commercial Services at the University of Sheffield have brought a reuse scheme to TUoS cafes.
VYTAL, a reusable container scheme for your takeaway food and drink, is available at Heartspace Cafe, Diamond Kitchen, Jessops Cafe and Cafe 1828.
You can download the VYTAL app today to reduce packaging waste.
Did you hear our Sarah Greenwood and Tony Ryan on BBC 4's Extinction Compendium? They joined presenters Gillian Burke and comedian Jon Long on this plastics special. The Grantham Centre gets a mention from Jon as being like 'an X Men mansion for the environmentalists of tomorrow' which is rather delightful.
Listen to: Plastic. Scourge of the planet, or synthetic scapegoat?
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, the MHR team has published a paper that looks at 2 studies: a life cycle assessment and a survey.
Results from the life cycle assessment show 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 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.
MHR's Sarah Greenwood was interviewed for Plastic and the Pandemic: Consumer Priorities in a Changing World from The Grocer.
This report looks at how the pandemic has impacted plastic use. It argues that 'without sustained and urgent action the crisis facing our planet risks becoming the next – and arguably greater – global emergency.'
For more information and a link to the report look here.
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.
'Packaging fairy' 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).
Many Happy Return's Emma Franklin has written a blog about the role English has to play in reducing plastic waste.
In the blog Emma explains how the Linguistics team are of gathering data that will help to understand consumers’ attitudes towards plastic and reuse. Further, Emma explains how they're looking into how best to present reuse systems to the public.
If you want to read more, then follow the link to read the full blog.
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. The School of English wrote a great piece explaining more about this.
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. Our funding is part of the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging challenge at UK Research and Innovation. 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.