On Thursday 15 September 2022, the University hosted Growing Kent and Medway’s first Sustainable Packaging Forum, bringing together key stakeholders from industry, policy and academia for an afternoon of inspiring presentations and the opportunity to discuss how to deliver a real circular sustainable packaging ecosystem across Kent and beyond.
Attendees enjoyed a series of inspiring talks from leading industry on the current sustainable packaging goals and challenges facing the food and drink sector, as well as getting the chance to join a regional business network to address packaging challenges and targets from the roots up.
Opening remarks were given by Dr Lori Fisher, Growing Kent & Medway research fellow, who introduced the forum’s aims and reflected on the current challenges in packaging, and opportunities to collaborate.
The first speaker, Dan Crooks from iFruit, introduced the packaging challenges from a suppliers perspective. Dan was followed by Dr Jon Mitchell from Nextloopp who introduced the audience to their circular food-grade PP from post-consumer packaging. The audience then heard from Kevin Clarke from KCC Packaging who presented how compostables can make food waste work in a circular environment. Graham Hayward, from Kent based paper mill Smurfit Kappa, then showcased the sustainability capabilities of the mill. The final speaker, Kieran Bevan from Triflex productions took the audience through sustainable flexible packaging and solutions for food and drink businesses.
Dr Rob Barker, Senior Lecturer at Kent and co-host of the event said: “It’s clear that we have the technologies emerging across the sector to move away from a packaging ecosystem reliant on virgin and traditional packaging materials, but much work is still needed to optimise and close the loop on these systems and allow us to move quickly enough to embrace new technologies.
“This will only be possible through the continued, open conversations that the Forum started and we’re excited at the University of Kent and as the Growing Kent and Medway consortia to take a lead in facilitating these conversations and enabling collaborations between our academic community and industry to make this vision of a circular sustainable packaging ecosystem a reality.”
Networking was held before and after the forum, so that delegates were able to network with other like-minded attendees and discuss their ideas with the guest speakers. This provided a unique opportunity for attendees to meet technical experts to discuss packaging needs and challenges, and information regional decision making. Audience members were able to ask questions to the speakers and receive feedback on their packaging needs and ideas.
Kevin Clarke at KCC Packaging said: “The event enabled a robust discussion on the challenges of allowing the status quo to persist. Much stronger actions are needed to create meaningful systemic changes in packaging & food waste management, if the UK is to gain better outcomes for the environment in our drive to reach net zero. This need for action was underlined by the broad section of industry experts who supported the event.”
The team at Kent will be issuing a report on the future of sustainable packaging in the coming months. For more information about the Growing Kent & Medway Sustainable Packaging Forum, please contact the team firstname.lastname@example.org.