Tomorrow’s plastics: Patent data reveals companies in consumer goods industry with high rate of innovation in bioplastics

Tomorrow’s plastics

• European Patent Office (EPO) study shows that Europe and US together account for 60% of patenting activity worldwide related to plastic recycling and bioplastic technologies
• UK among European countries showing specialisation in both sectors
• Cosmetics and detergent industry at the forefront of innovation in alternative plastics such as bioplastics, with Unilever in top ten of patent applicants
• EPO President António Campinos: “This report highlights Europe’s contribution towards a circular economy for plastics, but shows more can be done to transfer fundamental research to industry.”

From a global perspective, Europe and the US are leading innovation in plastic recycling and alternative plastics technologies, a new study published today by the European Patent Office (EPO) shows. Europe and the US each accounted for about 30% of patenting activity worldwide in these sectors between 2010 and 2019, or 60% combined. Within Europe, the UK together with France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium stands out for its specialisation in both plastic recycling and bioplastic technologies, while Germany as the top patent applicant among European countries, lacks specialisation in these fields. The Patents for tomorrow’s plastics: Global innovation trends in recycling, circular design and alternative sources study also reveals that in the domain of alternative plastics, the cosmetics and detergents industry is the sector innovating most intensively in bioplastics, with the UK’s Unilever among the top ten patent applicants in this field.
(Origins of inventions related to the circular plastics industry, 2010-19)

“While plastics are essential to the economy, plastic pollution is threatening ecosystems all over the planet,” said EPO President António Campinos. “The good news is that innovation can help us to address this challenge by enabling the transition to a fully circular model. This study offers key insights into a range of promising new technologies that foster the reusability, recyclability and bio-degradability of plastic products. It highlights Europe’s contribution to innovation in this sector, but shows that much more can be done to turn pioneering European research into inventions and to bring them to market.”

Chemical and biological recycling methods with highest number of patents 

The study presents a comprehensive analysis of the innovation trends for the period 2010 to 2019 that are driving the transition to a circular economy for plastics and looks at the number of international patent families (IPFs), each of which represents an invention for which patent applications have been filed at two or more patent offices worldwide. It shows that of all recycling technologies, the fields of chemical and biological recycling methods generated the highest level of patenting activity in the period under review. These methods accounted for 9 000 IPFs in 2010-19, double the number filed for mechanical recycling (4 500 IPFs), which is currently the most commonly used solution to transform plastic waste into new products. While the patenting of standard chemical methods (such as cracking and pyrolysis) reached a peak in 2014, emerging technologies such as biological methods using living organisms (1 500 IPFs) or plastic-to-monomer recycling (2 300 IPFs) now offer new possibilities to degrade polymers and produce virgin-like plastics. Among the European countries in the top 10 for plastic recycling, the UK is within the group showing specialisation in plastic recycling technologies, expressed in a revealed technological advantage (RTA) above 1 and the highest degree of specialisation in waste recovery technologies, particularly in the fields of waste collection and cleaning. With overall 436 plastic recycling IPFs between 2010 and 2019 equalling a 2.9% share, it ranks at number eight in a global ranking led by the US, Japan and Germany. The top 3 UK patent applicants for recycling technologies are Johnson Matthey, the University of Oxford and BP.

Healthcare and cosmetics & detergent industries lead in bioplastic innovation 

In the area of bioplastic inventions, the study finds that healthcare is by far the most active industry (more than 19 000 IPFs in 2010-19). However, it is the cosmetics and detergents sector that innovates most intensively in this field: In cosmetics and detergents, the ratio of bioplastics IPFs to conventional plastics IPFs is 1:3, compared to only 1:5 in the healthcare sector. Packaging, electronics and textiles are also significant contributors to innovation in bioplastics. With 1 654 IPFs representing a global share of 2.9%, the UK, with specialisation in this field, is at number 7 in a global country ranking and at number 3 in Europe after Germany and France. A UK-specific ranking of top bioplastics applicants shows Unilever at number 1 and British American Tobacco and Invista Textiles in second and third place. An analysis of global top applicants in bioplastics by selected categories reveals a strong overlap in the top 10 applicants in packaging and cosmetics/detergents. The UK’s Unilever ranks at number 4 in the cosmetics and detergents category behind Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal and Henkel and at number 8 in the packaging category (Innovation in bioplastics per sector).

Looking ahead: Rapid rise in innovation in plastics that are easier to recycle

The study highlights significant potential in alternative technologies focussed on new plastic designs for easier recycling, an area which has developed exponentially in recent years, with an average annual growth rate of 10% since 2010. These technologies have potential applications in aerospace, construction, transportation, wind turbines and microelectronics. The rapid growth of patenting in these fields is almost entirely driven by innovation in dynamic covalent bonding – an approach allowing for novel designs of durable plastic materials capable of self-repairing (IPFs related to related to design for easier recycling and dynamic covalent bonds, 1990–2019). While Japan has a strong lead in this field, most of the inventions coming from universities and public research organisations in this field originate from European and US research institutions.

Untapped potential to commercialise European university research

The report also finds that in the chemical and biological recycling fields, fundamental research plays a much more significant role than in other plastic recycling technologies, with nearly 20% of inventions originating from universities and public research organisations (Upstream research in recycling technologies, 2010-19). In terms of geographic location of these universities and public research organisations, Europe and the US have a clear lead, each with 29% of those IPFs stemming from research institutions. The report shows that Europe is the only major innovation hub to contribute a larger share of the chemical and biological recycling inventions from upstream research (29%) than overall in the field (26%). Meanwhile, US start-ups and scale-ups generated four times as many IPFs in chemical and biological recycling as their European counterparts (338 v. 84). This suggests that Europe, despite being particularly active in fundamental research, there is greater potential in transferring technologies to industry.

Lucy Goaman

Levelling up the UK will take years, be costly and likely cause job losses if not carefully prepared and managed

The government’s move towards an economy with high-skill, high-wage and high productivity will likely cause economic disruptions and job losses if the government is not preparing and organizing the transition, according to an expert from Durham University Business School.

Professor Bernd Brandl, who for years has researched the governance of wages, skills, and productivity in different countries, and what the role of interest organizations is in the governance has examined the consequences of the government’s transition on the economy, businesses and workers.

Professor Brandl says that this move may be highly beneficial for businesses and workers in the long run, however, without planning, it will cause painful disruptions over the next few years as the change will not be quick, and could take years or even decades for some businesses. In the short run, many existing companies will not be able to afford higher wages and go bust, causing job losses and industrial conflict. In the long-run the economy could benefit because more productive, skill-driven and innovative companies would be able to succeed on the market.

However, the success of a successful transition is not be taken for granted but needs to be accompanied by policies that support business and workers. A smooth transition will be costly for the government due to the need to invest in infrastructure and training facilities

Professor Brandl says “many British businesses have been previously running on a low-wage, low-skill, low-productivity business model, due to two main reasons; in the past decades there was a constant influx of migrant worker who were willing to accept low(er) wages, and second, apart from the minimum wage, there was almost nothing in place that prevented companies from keeping wages low.” Therefore, many businesses competed with each other by keeping wages and working conditions low and they had little incentives to invest in skills of their employees in order to gain a competitive advantage.

Now the new economic vision of the PM looks to replace mass immigration with higher wages and better working conditions to encourage people into key sectors under the guise of moving the British economy “towards a high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy”, in which “everyone can take pride in their work and the quality of their work”.

Professor Brandl says there are three key elements to make the transition work. The first is patience, the transition could take years for some sectors, and even decades for others, it’s not a quick change. Secondly, the transition is costly and the government must be prepared to invest in infrastructure and training facilities. Thirdly, the process is likely to be painful for many business and workers since there will likely be job losses and social disruptions in the years ahead.

However, in order to accelerate and facilitate the transition the government should manage and coordinate the transition process. Preferably together with representatives from employers and employees so that no one is left out and the expertise of everyone is taken on board. The way how the government manages the transition will also show how conflictual the years ahead will be since the transition could be socially and economically cushioned.

Therefore, Professor Brandl states that the transition of the British economy “towards a high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy” is not as easy as it looks and might lead to substantial disruptions and conflicts in the years ahead. The transition process can be expected to be time-consuming, costly and likely to cause some damage in the short-term. However, in the long-run it could be highly beneficial for businesses and workers.
Professor Brandl says “it takes a lot of “guts” for the government to initiate this move since voters in the next election might go to the ballots on basis of the short-term pain they already see instead of considering the long-term gains.”

This research was carried out through Professor Brandl’s investigation of how and why countries operate in different skilled models, and the effects of collective wage bargaining on wages, skills and productivity in a country.

Lucy Goaman

Will your Organisation Meet The Net Zero Challenge?

The science is clear, the UK needs to change its carbon emissions output to tackle the growing climate crisis. The UK has a target to reduce emissions 68% by 2030 and 78% by 2035, with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.In response to the mounting pressure to meet these targets, from the UK Government, supply chain and consumers, many organisations are looking to create a carbon reduction and net zero strategy plan. However, according to Edie’s 2021 Net-Zero Business Barometer survey, 45% of businesses are yet to set their net zero targets.One of the greatest challenges to a net zero strategy is understanding the carbon emission outputs of an organisation’s operations, including supply chains. Monitoring and measuring emissions across scopes 1, 2 and 3 is complex, invariably putting pressure on operational resources. Additionally, not every organisation has the capacity to employ the knowledge and skills needed to manage a decarbonisation strategy.To support organisations in meeting this challenge, businesses can develop a Net Zero and Carbon Reduction strategy designed to help them define, shape and monitor a carbon emissions strategy tailored to their operational needs and challenges.For organisations with ambitious sustainability objectives, consultants, such as the team from TEAM’s Consultants (www.teamenergy.com) can help businesses define a Science-Based Target which sets out a path to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.Organisations who are planning to create a net zero strategy and are putting sustainability at the forefront of their agenda. Working in partnership to support in decarbonising operations, consultants can provide dedicated advice and guidance enabling organisations to meet their sustainability transformation goals.

Commenting, TEAM’s Head of Operations, Timothy Holman said;

“There is no getting away from the growing demand to be working towards net zero. Although the UK legislation is still new, we’re increasingly seeing pressure from the supply chain, financial institutions, and consumers forcing businesses into taking action. Elsewhere there are organisations determined to lead by example driven by a desire to play their part in tackling the climate crisis, investing everything they can into becoming carbon neutral.

With COP26 taking place this year and the Government’s ambitions accelerating, we expect there could be new regulations forcing businesses to act more efficiently to come into effect, through increasing building performance standards for example; potentially with penalties for non-compliance.

 

Lucy Goaman

5 years after the Brexit referendum, 25% of people would change their vote

5 years after the Brexit referendum, 25% of people would change their vote

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Brexit referendum where the British people voted to leave the European Union. With this in mind, KIS Finance conducted a survey which asked 2,000 people whether they would change their vote if they had a second opportunity.

Key statistics

•25% of those who voted in the referendum would now change their vote.

•11.4% of those who voted Leave would now vote Remain.

•13.6% of those who voted Remain would now vote Leave.

•16.7% of those who didn’t vote would now vote Leave.

•39% of those who didn’t vote would now vote Remain.

The survey revealed that 25% of those who voted in the referendum would now change their vote.

This is made up of:

•11.4% of those who voted Leave would now vote Remain
•13.6% of those who voted Remain would now vote Leave

However, perhaps even more notably, out of those who didn’t vote in the referendum:

•16.7% wish they had voted Leave
•39% wish they had voted Remain.

It is estimated that Brexit cost the UK economy £400m – £800m per week by the end of 2019. The survey respondents were given this information so it could be taken into consideration when making their decision.

This is a staggering cost after the Leave party won partially on the promise of saving the £350m per week sent to the EU and using that to fund the NHS instead.

This data has clearly had a significant impact on how people feel towards leaving the EU.

Based on these survey results, the outcome of the 2016 referendum could have been very different.

 

Lucy Goaman

Cleaner Seas Group are delighted to be at the G7 Summit Official Events

Cleaner Seas Group are delighted to be invited to showcase their innovative technology to remove microplastics from the environment at the G7 Summit.

Every time you wash your clothes in your washing machine it can release up to 700,000 Microplastic fibres (microfibres). The Cleaner Seas Group have made it their mission to find a solution to this problem.

Cleaner Seas Group’s mission is to rid the environment of microplastic pollution, has led to the by development of best in class technology products that remove and capture micro and nano plastics from any washing machine.

The G7 Expo at Cornwall House runs between 9-14 June. Its aim is to provide a showcase for the best the South West has to offer, shining a light on the region’s rich heritage and innovative green energy, mining, agritech, food and drink, space and aerospace.

The expo will be welcoming delegates and the World’s press and we’re looking forward to talking Cleaner Seas with them.

www.cleanerseasgroup.com

 


Tru Earth – Revolutionary strip form laundry detergent launches in the UK

 

A new category disrupting, zero waste laundry detergent, Tru Earth has launched in the UK.

The brand is on a mission to eliminate plastic laundry jugs from landfills and oceans, and their eco-strips are a smart, eco-friendly way to do your laundry.

Tru Earth is available on a subscription basis from www.truearth.uk delivered directly through your letterbox in a plastic free zero waste design, at a frequency to suit you, so no more carrying bulky laundry detergent back from the supermarket. Tru Earth subscription service means along with no plastic jug, there is 94% less transportation pollution compared to leading laundry detergent.

Delivered in a zero-waste compostable cardboard sleeve, each ultra-concentrated, hypoallergenic strip completely dissolves with your laundry in both cold and hot water. Weighing just 3 grammes per strip, Tru Earth completely eliminates heavy laundry jugs or plastic boxes and frees up cupboard space.

Clean, green, and simple! 

“Our core value at Tru Earth is that consistent small action can lead to big change in the world. When you use Tru Earth Eco-Strips, you will feel confident that you are taking care of your family, and their future on this planet.” Co-Founder Brad Liski

Uncompromising Cleaning Power

Each laundry strip packs ultra-concentrated, hypoallergenic, eco-friendly cleaning power into a tiny, pre-measured strip of liquidless laundry detergent that you just toss in the wash. Its’ low-sudsing formula works in all types of washing machines. The smart hypoallergenic laundry detergent formulation effectively seeks out and dislodges dirt molecules and stains, keeping them in suspension until they are rinsed away.

Gentle Enough for Even the Most Sensitive Skin
- Paraben-free & Phosphate-free
- Free of added dyes
- Free of chlorine bleach
- Free of 1,4-dioxane, as certified by independent laboratory tests
- Readily biodegradable in accordance with OECD 310D
- Hypoallergenic, certified by independent dermatologists
- Vegan: no animal-based ingredients or testing on animals by us or our ingredient suppliers

Available in 3 styles; Baby, Fresh Linen and Fragrance Free, choose from 32, 64 and a 384 washes pack sizes. For serious stains try Platinum, Tru Earth ultra concentrated 32 wash packs in Fresh Linen or Fragrance Free.

Available to purchase online at www.truearth.uk

There is not enough available land to hit UK tree-planting targets


There is a large hole in the amount of available land to hit UK tree-planting targets, NGOs urgently call on Corporate Landowners to get involved to accelerate action.

New eco-transparency platform Vana finds the corporate landowners who own 130.9% of potential woodland opportunities land needed to hit England tree-planting targets


The UK has set out ambitious targets to establish forests in areas where there was no previous tree cover. For England, this is 180,000 hectares (336,372 football fields) by 2042. Recently the UK Government has committed to 30,000 hectares per year by the end of this Parliament. But the targets are behind plan[3], as it is proving difficult to access available land. Whilst officials have knowledge of where suitable land is geographically located[4], the challenge is the lack of knowledge of who owns it.

However, the game changed when HM Land Registry made their corporate land ownership data for England and Wales available for innovative start-ups. CEO Jaya Chakrabarti of B Corp  tech social enterprise Semantrica Ltd devised a cunning plan to rapidly increase the rate of afforestation and nature restoration in the UK, using that data and supply chain transparency legislation to do it.

The app, named Vana (the Sanskrit word for forest, wood, grove, spring, abundance), aims to bring together tree-planting climate activist groups, government funding and corporate entities with environmentally critical landholdings. The land identified using the Vana system will then be used to drive projects to increase tree coverage and/or other rewilding action in the UK where landowners are willing. Whilst still a prototype it has already been dubbed a “carbon inset dating agency” by some. Corporates committed to proactive climate action are invited to take their first step by registering their interest with the Vana platform (https://projectvana.org/).

Data Cuttings from the Vana Prototype:
The Vana prototype connects multiple open data and silo data sources with live supply chain data, enabling the team to confirm that 29,792 corporate entities own 130.9% of the right type of land required to achieve afforestation targets in England alone. This is only 5% of total corporate landholdings, hardly making a dent in those aggregated land assets. Put another way, Vana has confirmed that corporates are overwhelmingly the best hope of enabling the UK to hit its tree-planting targets.

Unsurprisingly their prototype confirms that the top three sectors owning woodland opportunity land were Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, Real Estate Activities and Construction. But more importantly, Vana has identified fragments of land all over England and Wales across all sectors that could be used to hit those ambitious targets. This “long tail” fills in many of the missing puzzle pieces, including which group structures and supply chains some of those entities are a part of.

Drawing from their experience in corporate compliance the team have identified which of the companies in scope of the UK Modern Slavery Act (companies over £36M turnover) own 23.8% of the 2042 target for England. The data can also be cut regionally, showing that in the South West of England 6601 organisations own 26% of the England 2042 target.

The Vana engine is already powerful enough to pull in other data sets and overlay them to address other environmental targets. Everything from flood risk mitigation to district heating planning proposals can be analysed through the corporate land and building ownership lens. Vana will use all available data to prioritise the lowest hanging fruit to achieve the most impact quickly.

What Vana is doing next and how to support it:
Now that Vana has successfully established the business case, the team needs funding to transform the prototype into a fully functioning platform to support working with corporates leading on afforestation and reforestation. Organisations wishing to support Vana can do so by pre-subscribing to the platform at a significantly discounted rate, or by sponsoring a live reporting map, region by region, showing afforestation and nature restoration opportunities and live projects as they get going.

https://techfund.tiscreport.org/project/vana-the-afforestation-and-reforestation-data-app/

Says Jaya, “We felt that the best place to start is by providing complete visibility on what is happening in the country right now. Not only would it help organisations and activists decide where they should be putting their efforts, but it would also help policymakers see the impact of current policy geospatially. As a B Corp social enterprise in need of funds to achieve our mission, this kills two birds with one stone.”

Project Vana aims to help on-the-ground technologies connect faster with climate-conscious corporate customers, again to accelerate impact. Innovative solutions companies are encouraged to make contact to form part of what Vana calls its “mycelium network” of high impact cleantech companies.

Time is of the essence. As Jaya says: “The human race is on. It’s the only one we have to win and it cannot be won without going beyond fixing what we have broken.”

Shopping for Christmas

 

This morning I was listening to Amanda Holden on Heart FM as she decided the time had come to kick off Christmas on her breakfast show!  She started playing some reassuringly familiar Christmas songs, and for a little while, everything felt reassuringly familiar.

Retailers will be hoping that reassuring sense of a traditional Christmas will be be matched by consumer shopping habits this season.

A large part of any retailer’s annual sales and profits occurs in the three months before Christmas. For this to work perfectly, retailers know that having the right goods at the right price in the weeks leading up to Christmas is essential. But, this is far from a perfect year for so many reasons.

For the past six years, Retail Assist has conducted its annual Black Friday survey which gives a good insight into the mind space of consumers in the last few weeks to Christmas.  Whilst Retail Assist have asked many of the usual questions, they’ve added more questions to reflect the current COVID-19 situation and how it might affect consumer spending and behaviour.

This year, 1,200 people have been surveyed and some of the results are quite surprising, and in retail terms, there are some significant shifts predicted):
• This year, a whopping 67% of people said that they planned to shop Black Friday this year – a huge 10% rise on last year
• Whilst the majority of people (59%) said that Black Friday doesn’t usually kick start their Christmas shopping, 66% of people said that they were looking to start their Christmas shopping earlier this year
• 43% of people said that this was a budget-related decision, so they could spread the cost out. However, interestingly, the second most popular reason people chose was that it gave them something to do; as harsher restrictions were brought in in the run-up to Christmas, shopping from your sofa has become entertainment as much as necessity
• 40% of people said that they can get carried away with all the discounts – an increase of 20% from last year
• Every year, technology items have always been the most popular choice – but not this year. Clothes were the standalone winner at 55%, with beauty buys at 31% and technology shrinking to 24% of respondents.

To all colleagues who I have worked with on the seasonal gifting market, I do hope this is a good one for you.  And to all friends who run fabulous boutique businesses which desperately depend on Christmas sales, I hope you get the bumper Christmas you so dearly need and deserve.

 

Share of Voice Online vs Share of Time

 

 Has the rise of digital technology had an impact on your business, and your life?  Has it given you more time or eaten it away?

For many of us the day is now a 24-hour operation, no longer the 8.30am – 6pm days of old. My Withings watch reliably informs me every morning that I have clocked less and less sleep. My phone beeps and lists for me all the updates and communications activity across multiple channels for numerous brands since my head hit the pillow 6 hours before. And so the day begins.

Marketers are undoubtedly working significantly longer hours as technology advances, perversely. In many businesses marketers are required to be ‘on’ a lot more, with real-time messaging and communications, as the battle for the share of voice online heightens. As technology provides greater flexibility, and in many cases far greater accessibility to brands, and the teams behind the brands, demand on content and time has dramatically risen.

In the ‘good old days’ when annual brand and media plans were crafted, aligned and signed off, everything was rather more scheduled and prescribed.  A TV ad would air on a known day with pre determined frequency and channel list to a well research audience profile. A product line would launch after 18 months of hard toil. A brand team would leave the office each evening knowing that they could switch off, socialise and return the following day to the office with a certain degree of predictability in regards to work tasks.  (Unless Asda has decided today is the day they are going to slash the price of blades in their razor category with a national advertising campaign causing anarchy across the UK retailers, and you are sitting in the Gillette office at the other end of the buyers’ phone.  Eek.  Trust me, it wasn’t a day that was predicted!)

Today social media influencers are becoming a go-to option for generating consumer trust and credibility.  Move over Superbowl advertisers, peer to peer brand ambassadors such as Zoella are storming ahead.  In the beauty markets content creators have been widely employed for a number of years, ahead of most other industries.  Indeed over the coming years I predict that brands will start moving significant spend to social media influencers. Unlike offices, social media does not close. It never sleeps.

As I watch influencers’ profiles shift on a daily basis to ever increasing followers, and new posts and opinions updating every second, it is a beast that needs careful control.

For the newbies the race for the largest number of followers is well and truly on. Like all channels though I question whether reach via quantity of followers (most especially referring to empty paid for followers) should ever be overlooked for quality and credibility of influencer.  For the brands I associate, I most definitely choose depth of relevance and experience ahead of popularity to ensure a long-term audience growth.

So back to that old subject of work-life balance, even writing it seems so old now.  Work becomes your life. For many of the marketers I know, their lives have never been more fulfilled, especially the most entrepreneurial marketers. Social media content creators open up unlimited possibilities, provoke debate, inspire people to dream more, learn more, make change happen, create movement, entice action and shape minds.

I actually don’t mind losing a little sleep for that.

Award Winning Real Shaving Company

 

There are lots of smiles in the office this morning as we have just received the Bronze Award in the Best New Male Face Product at the 14th Pure Beauty Awards in London.

The Awards celebrate innovation and creativity within the beauty industry and rightly recognise the most exciting and efficacious products (and as you can imagine it is a long old list!) launched within the past year.

These Awards are voted by Pure Beauty’s readers and retail store staff. Many thanks to everyone who voted for The Real Shaving Company as your favourite product and brand!

www.realshaving.com