More than 30 Cumbrian businesses representing a range of sizes and sectors this week took part in an open innovation forum looking at challenges and solutions around single-use plastics.
The event was organised by the University of Cumbria's initiative 'Eco-innovation Cumbria' in collaboration with Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS).
Project Manager Melanie Burton said, “It was a really positive and stimulating day with a wide range of solutions shared relating to plastic use in general and the particular challenges of single-use plastics. We must remember that many businesses are driven by environmental benefits, but at the same time have to be commercially minded and consider the economics of finding alternatives to plastics.
"Thanks to the likes of the BBC's Blue Planet series, plastic use is high on the agenda and it is really encouraging to see how many solutions are available and that it’s businesses based in Cumbria who are responsible for developing some of these solutions, as well as being distributors to businesses worldwide.
Those with solutions not ready for market can receive further support from the university's innovation programmes like Eco-innovation Cumbria. Fresh Keg is already working with University of Cumbria students to help test a new and innovative storage solution for liquids.
Ray Blackburn from Fresh Keg spoke at the event and there was great interest in his product. Ray said “I’m keen to see a reduction in the use of the plastic milk containers in hospitality and this approach provides a storage solution that works for small or large venues. I’m grateful to the university for helping me with testing and for inviting me to speak today”.
Also taking part was world leading company Futamura based in Wigton. Futamura's Clare McKeown said they welcomed the chance to "focus on the local business community in Cumbria and hear about their challenges, which companies as large as ours also face. It’s been great to share some of the solutions we’re developing as alternatives to plastics."
“What the forum has shown is there is an incredible amount of expertise right here in Cumbria, with businesses who can help others reduce the plastic they use”, commented Phil Davies from Cumbria Action for Sustainability. “It’s given us food for thought on how we could potentially help raise awareness about the solutions on our doorstep.
“It has also shown how strongly Cumbrian businesses feel about meeting this challenge and minimising their impact on our county’s environment. We’re fortunate to have the Eco-innovation Cumbria programme to help make the links between the businesses trying to overcome the plastic challenge and those that have or could develop the solutions.”
After the session, Justine Carruthers, managing director of Tray Bakes Ltd, commented, "I was really inspired by the wealth of talent and knowledge and commitment in our county to making a difference to the use of plastics."
Videos of speaker sessions from the event will be available on the project website and due to the appetite from attendees, organisers are looking to hold a follow up event later in the year, taking a look at the challenge for recycling or disposal of plastics for businesses in Cumbria.
To see the videos, visit www.cumbria.ac.uk/eco where you’ll also find more info on future events as they are posted. To contact the Eco-Innovation team, email enterprise.services @cumbria.ac.uk or call 01228 888740.
LtoR - Justine Carruthers, Tray Bakes Ltd; Al Wilson, Centre for Leadership Performance; Charlotte Webb, Wilf’s Catering Ltd; Effa Ettah, University of Central Lancashire; Phil Davies, Cumbria Action for Sustainability; Reinhard Ullrich, Pye Drain; Clare McKeown, Futamura UK; Ray Blackburn, Fresh Keg; Melanie Burton, Eco-Innovation Cumbria; Andrew Gibson, Multiplastics Europe Ltd.
Eco-innovation Cumbria is a £2.1m project part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is a collaboration between University of Cumbria, Lancaster University and University of Central Lancashire. Through funded research and development projects with businesses and a series of workshops it enables businesses to deliver process and product innovation for a sustainable future.
Cumbria Action for Sustainability is a charity based in Penrith who work with individuals, businesses and communities to help them become more sustainable, driving a transition to a zero carbon Cumbria.