A NORTH-EAST organisation that helps to develop the next generation of products and processes is looking to cut plastic pollution by driving forward the development of food packaging that is less damaging to the environment.

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is using its polymer chemistry research at its base in NETPark, Sedgefield, to support the development of alternatives to commonly used fossil-based polymers, which have resulted in the continued pollution of land and seas when leaked to the natural environment.

According to bosses at CPI, plastic packaging delivers a number of benefits, such as reducing food waste and enabling globalised distribution, however, waste mismanagement has resulted in rising global pollution, particularly in the world’s oceans.

The new project will see the development next generation packaging that continue to prolong the shelf-life of foodstuffs, such as meats and salads, but, crucially, they will be made from biodegradable materials designed to degrade in a natural environment.

Working alongside Gateshead-based SME iPac Packaging Innovations, Avondale Foods, Cranswick Plc and their customers, CPI will use its formulation and industrial biotechnology capability to develop new biodegradable packaging with better end-of-life options, such as composting.

If leaked to the environment, this packaging is intended to bio-degrade quickly using Earth’s natural biological eco-systems.

Dan Noakes, business manager at CPI, said: “We need to adopt new thinking if we are to overcome the pressing issue of plastics-persistence in our natural environment.

“This project tackles the issue head-on. We hope to positively impact the sustainability of the food industry and influence environmentally-conscious purchasing decisions made by the consumer.”

Harry Reed, managing director at iPac Packaging Innovations, said: “Currently, traditional polymers such as PET offer the most effective medium for food packaging, while their stable physical properties allow for recycling and re-use.

“However, mismanagement of waste streams too frequently results in plastic pollution. Now is the time to analyse the way in which we use packaging materials."