Perpetual Plastic for Food to Go (PPFTG)

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Loughborough Design School

Abstract

This innovative multi-disciplinary project will develop, prototype, and evaluate a novel circular business model that combines smart-technology enabled products and services to reduce the environmental, societal, and economic impact of Food-to-go packaging.

Food-to-go (FTG), fresh and chilled foods such as sandwiches and prepared salads sold by food retailers for consumption out of the home, is a growing UK market driven by the rise in convenience lifestyles. The FTG industry at present yields a significant amount of single-use packaging waste which is detrimental to our planet, but also represents substantial resource value loss. Driven by traditional business models that operate on a 'take-make-dispose' economic system, efforts to transform the FTG industry to a more circular economic system (the Circular Economy (CE)), one in which plastic packaging is no longer single-use and resource value is retained within a loop, have been limited. This is partly due to the lack of historic cooperation across the supply chain to define and address the problem; the complexity of transitioning multiple industry and consumer stakeholders to a new circular approach; and the lack of understanding of consumer behaviour.

Recognising that no one single approach will overcome the identified problems, we bring together academics with expertise in sustainable design, sustainable manufacturing, and polymer chemistry with project partners that represent the interests of all operators and stages within the FTG supply chain; from manufacturer through to retailer. Together, we will use a combined approach of novel smart technologies and quality assurance methods, in-depth understanding and modelling of consumer behaviour, and comprehensive supply chain value assessment to propose a novel future FTG Circular Product-Service System (CPSS).

Specifically, the project will: (i) develop and validate novel combinations of 'track and trace' smart sensors, tracking, end of life detection technologies, and robust quality control systems to support the design and development of new FTG CPSS concepts that could maximise the lifetime of plastic packaging, enhance resource management, and reduce premature waste disposal; (ii) define how 'value' is prioritised, moved, and maintained within existing FTG supply chains so to develop new tools and methods for determining the necessary supply-side value movements and flows within new FTG CPSS concepts; (iii) seek to understand current consumer behaviours with existing FTG packaging in order to propose new tools and methods that enable and evaluate meaningful behaviour change towards less resource intense and environmentally destructive demand-side action; (iv) take a structured co-design approach that partners academic research with industry experience to create, based on the findings above, and evaluate, through live proof-of-concept prototype trials, a novel FTG CPSS that will improve the environmental, societal, and economic impact of FTG packaging.

The project will be as far as possible 'open source' through academic publication, industry networking, and a vibrant digital social media presence to help foster the UK and international transition to CE, disseminating and translating project outputs to both academia and industry. Outputs will include: Track and trace, cleaning, and detection technology concepts with feasibility/stability studies and design implications; supply chain value indicators and datasets, resource and value flow models, and evaluation tools; consumer behaviour baseline dataset and modelling tools, with personas and scenarios of use; and a novel FTG CPSS concept with validated proof-of-concept packaging prototypes, and business/service modelling and blueprints. We will also produce a toolkit for policymakers which will synthesise the generated tools, methods, and case study examples to both underline and reinforce our impact and the national importance of our findings.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description All - SSPP Workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact SSPP Enabling Research Workshop Series. This series of workshops brings together academics and industry experts from across all of the Enabling research in smart sustainable plastic packaging (SSPP) funded projects. The lead universities include: University of Strathclyde; The University of Manchester; Brunel University; University College London; Loughborough University; City, University of London; University of Sheffield; University of Lancaster; The University of Liverpool; and University of Cambridge. External speakers at the workshops have include OPRL, Berry Global, and SUEZ. This led to follow on discussions between the projects including two facilitated sessions by the research team on embedded fluorescent markers (tags) and alternative approaches to product labelling.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description GTW - GRiPS 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact PI was an invited speaker at GRIPS 2021: Global Research and Innovation in Plastics Sustainability. The session was on 'Reuse and Refill' and chaired by Sara Banning, Innovate UK. This led to several follow up conversations with national businesses.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://ppftg.wordpress.com/2021/03/17/the-ppftg-team-at-grips2021/
 
Description GTW - Many Happy Returns Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Within the wider SSPP Enabling Research Group the research team (PI and CO-I) were invited to The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures 'Many Happy Returns' Takeaway Meeting #2 on the 1st March 2021 to present our work and discuss reuse models for takeaway food. This led to follow on discussions and plans for a workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description NC - The Grocer 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact CO-I was an invited panellist at The Grocer Broadcast Conference 2021. This led to several follow up conversations with national businesses.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://ppftg.wordpress.com/2021/03/24/ppftg-at-the-grocer-broadcast-conference-2021/
 
Description RT - BBC East Midlands Today 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Co-I had the opportunity to introduce the research project to hundreds of thousands of local residents in their interview with Navtej Johal on BBC East Midlands Today. This led to several follow up conversations with local businesses.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://ppftg.wordpress.com/2021/01/31/ppftg-on-bbc-east-midlands-today/
 
Description RT - The Times 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An interview with Co-I by The Times. Article titled: 'How Eco is your lunch - the plastic packaging problem'. This led to several follow up conversations with national businesses.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/how-eco-is-your-lunch-the-plastic-packaging-problem-l80d6rvkc
 
Description RT - The Times 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Co-I a panel member of the Times Earth Events - Future of Food: 10 November 2021. In association with Santander, the Times held a short virtual event on the future of food which brought to life key areas covered in the Times Earth Supplement published on October 21. This led to several follow up conversations with national businesses.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021