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Feature: Funding furthers polymer research

Independent plastics and rubber research organisation Rapra Technology has reported a significant growth in demand for information on compostable materials.

This year, work in biodegradable and compostable material has received a financial push with support from Telford-based Polymer Cluster, which is channelling funding provided from Advantage West Midlands and the European Regional Development Fund.

The funding was used to develop a number of case studies in the Wolverhampton and Telford areas, and to help progress the UK's understanding and testing work of compostable and biodegradable polymer materials.

Based on the pilot studies, Rapra has developed a number of programmes including: provision of testing to the defined European standard, EN 13432; participation in supply chain initiatives such as the UK Compostable Packaging Group; and the development of targeted research programmes.

Rapra's David Ingles is leading the project. According to Ingles, until now the only approved facilities to conduct this type of materials testing and analysis programmes were on mainland Europe.

The UK's Composting Association has established an accreditation scheme that is linked to the existing validatory scheme, DIN CERTO, based in Germany. This scheme enables materials manufacturers and converters to certificate their products as being compliant with the tests contained in EN 13432. Subsequently, Rapra has set up dedicated laboratories and pilot-scale facilities to deliver this service to the expanding UK market.

"Demand has been strong," says Ingles, "and alongside our capital investment, we have been fortunate to receive considerable support from Polymer Cluster in relation to staff training, accreditation fees and promotional activities. It is hoped that this test facility will prove a valuable resource for all UK-based companies active in this market."

Funding into the plastic research and development sector continues to grow with an announcement by the Faraday Plastics and Polymer Partnership that in the past 12 months it has helped to raise of total of £22 million in research funding for the plastics sector in the UK and Europe.

Faraday Plastics director Richard Simmons says: "The total size of this funding reflects an underlying dynamism in the research part of this sector and an underlying willingness for governments, companies and institutions to commit funds to plastics. The success here presents a convincing argument for more to be done.

"Many areas of plastics-based research are simply waiting to happen - needing only a kick-start in finance and a collaborative effort between partners to bring them into the production arena."

The range of more than 20 projects facilitated by Faraday Plastics includes conductive polymers; biocompostable materials, gas and liquid processing, energy-saving polymer processing; polymer aggregates in building materials; supercritical fluid technology; pro-cess intensification techniques and marine polymer applications.

Retail carrier bags targeted

Two retail projects focusing on plastic carrier bags and glass containers are the latest to receive grants from a funding scheme established by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

The £8 million Waste Minimisation Innovation Fund was launched in November to support R&D projects that focus on reducing the amount of retail packaging and food waste that goes into household bins.

ASDA stores and Ecomedia have joined

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