23 October 2022
A €7 million EU project involving researchers at the Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) aims to tackle single-use plastic waste by analysing consumer psychology around reuse and creating new food packaging solutions.
TUS is one of 19 members of Buddie-Pack, a multinational consortium consisting of packaging manufacturers, consumers, and logistics, cleaning, and recycling experts from six European countries.
The project, which is expected to take three and a half years to complete, will see researchers look to behavioural psychology and the drivers of reuse to help them figure out how to promote consumer acceptance of reusable food packing.
In tandem, the Buddie-Pack team will also devise new food packaging cleaning solutions to prevent any possible contamination of packaging, while preserving its durability and enabling it to be reused up to 300 times.
Dr Declan Devine, director of TUS’s PRISM research institute, believes outputs from Buddie-Pack could drastically reduce the volume of single-use plastic waste in landfills.
“Food packaging plays an essential role in reducing food waste, enabling long food shelf life and preventing tampering,” Dr Devine explained, “However, it is clear that our relationship with single-use plastic must change due to its negative effect on the environment.”
“Due to the importance of the meat industry to the Irish economy, this research has the potential to remove millions of tonnes of single use packaging from the environment,” he continued.
In addition to cutting down the production of single-use plastic packaging, Buddie-Pack is also expected to significantly reduce water and energy consumption and avoid the release of microplastics into the oceans.
According to Dr Romina Pezzoli, applied packaging platform lead at APT, an Enterprise Ireland technology gateway based at TUS’s Athlone campus, the project will help Ireland and the EU meet their sustainability targets: “To tackle the plastic waste crisis, we need to approach the challenge from the design of new packaging systems; the development of reusable food packaging technologies is a key strategy,” Dr Pezzoli explained.
“We will work together with Irish and European industry partners, research centres and consumer behavioural psychologists to progress the state of the art and to find a solution that involves all stakeholders.”
Buddie-Pack is funded by Horizon Europe and coordinated by the Industrial Technical Centre for Plastics and Composites (IPC) in France.