Prototype trials are underway for a university and industry-led project to convert Welsh ryegrass into sustainable food packaging.
Using cutting-edge pulp moulding equipment, researchers at Bangor University have begun a process of heating mixtures of ryegrass to press and mould into prototype fruit and vegetable packaging products.
Funding of almost £600,000 from the Welsh Government’s Academic Expertise for Business (A4B) programme is facilitating the Sustainable Products from Ryegrass (STARS) project, a collaborative programme of research between Bangor and Aberystwyth Universities and six industrial partners including Waitrose.
The project is investigating a range of products that can be produced from ryegrass, including easily-recycled, fibre-based packaging for foods and other low carbon commodity materials including biofuels and platform chemicals.
Industry partners including Waitrose and Adare (which will be supplying the fibre-based packaging for store trials) are also working closely with the universities on the project.
The expertise and market insight of the key industry stakeholders will be key to maximising the potential for the products to be commercialised.
The project is being led by the BioComposites Centre at Bangor University and the Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University.
Dr Adam Charlton, of Bangor University’s Biocomposites Centre, said, “Working on trials to produce prototype packaging marks an exciting halfway phase in the project and in the coming 12 months we’ll be focusing on optimising these materials through collaboration with Adare and Waitrose.
“We’re grateful for the Welsh Government’s financial backing of the project and are delighted to be working with world-class organisations with significant market insight, offering real possibility to commercialise a number of product streams from ryegrass.”
Minister for Economy, Edwina Hart, said, “It’s positive to see two Welsh institutions working on such a novel project to use Welsh ryegrass for products with such huge commercial potential.
“Activating a green industry is a key aim of Welsh Government and it’s positive to see our Academic Expertise for Business (A4B) programme facilitating such progressive collaborative working between universities and industry to bring new products to market.”
Derek Davies, Packaging Technical Manager for Adare, said, “Adare already has an extensive range of fibre-based trays and punnets marketed under its Fibellus brand and this important project will be an opportunity for us to investigate the feasibility of using this exciting alternative Welsh raw material as a source for food and non-food packaging.
“We’re keen to develop our range of practical, environmentally-friendly alternatives to plastic formats and we’re confident that this project could further augment this range of options.”