Plastic Disparity: Europe’s retailers and producers under pressure to innovate

4 August, 23
Retailers and producers in European nations must evolve faster, as nearly half of all plastic patents have been developed in Asia over the last two decades.

Retailers and producers in European nations must evolve faster, as nearly half of all plastic patents have been developed in Asia over the last two decades.
A new report reveals innovation in plastic technology has more than tripled since 2015, following legislative action and policy initiatives to tackle plastic waste.

According to the latest figures, plastic innovation has increased three fold in little over half a decade following International legislation such as the 2015 Paris agreement.

Asia is the world leader in plastic innovation, with China and Japan accounting for approximately half of all patent applications in the past two decades. Europe is second, with Germany ranking in the top 4 for patent filings and the UK ranking 7th.

The report, created by UK Patent Box experts GovGrant, analysed all global patent filings in the past two decades, highlighting the countries driving innovation activity in the area. Data highlights the need for increased investment in plastic innovation in the UK to close the gap between the nations.

Earlier this month, nation-state representatives took the first steps towards a legally binding treaty to regulate plastic globally, described as the most important green deal since the 2015 Paris agreement.

UK growth potential for plastic innovation
The UK market is taking steps to grow influence in the area, following recent announcements of a further £3.2 million investment in UKRI’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP), representing the largest UK government investment in sustainable plastic packaging.

Rubber composition is the leading technology in the UK, with over 30 filed technologies, followed by particles and flexible containers. These technologies all attempt to reduce the persistence of plastic products, enabling plastics to better decompose or be recycled.

In recent years, several policies have been implemented by the UK government in a bid to improve the use and management of plastic packaging, including the mandatory charge for single-use plastic bags and the plastic packaging tax.

Later this year, a range of polluting single-use plastics will be banned in England . It is expected that this ban will have a significant impact in reducing plastic waste.

Akshay Thaman, IP Consultant & Policy Lead at GovGrant, says:

‘’Policy initiatives, alongside innovation, play a role in reducing the impact of plastic waste globally. The increased policy measures to curb avoidable plastic waste, coupled with the increase in innovative activity in this area, suggests that there is political and societal pressure for novel solutions. The increase in innovative activity also suggests that this is becoming an increasingly competitive market and one that is still developing.

The UK has a role to play in advancing plastic innovation. We are already world leading at policy implementation to influence consumer behaviour, however, there is work to do on incentivising plastic innovation. For example, the UK omitted plastic innovation from its 10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution in 2020. If the UK wants to be serious about plastic innovation, it needs to set a plan.

“I believe that plastic production is here to stay, however, improving the way we manage plastic waste is the key to achieving a circular economy and sustainability.”

Raffi Schieir, Director of Prevented Ocean Plastic™, says:

“Innovation in plastic technology is crucial, as businesses try to reduce their environmental impact and carbon footprint, but the single biggest area where they can have an immediate effect is to accelerate their use of recycled material. That’s not to say material is the only source of innovation available to manufacturers, but it’s those early adopters who will quickly distinguish themselves from the pack in today’s commercial landscape. So many companies are falling behind in the race to meet their 2025 commitments, but the ones who are at the forefront are the true innovators.

The government are taking gradual steps with their plastic tax and the development of EPR regulations, but these efforts don’t go far enough, as most businesses still find it easier to pay these taxes than improve their methods. The change needs to come at a fundamental business level, based on their own standards and ethos, rather than being dictated by external requirements.”

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