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Homewares 100% recycled in the UK

20 Mar 2023
3 mins
Brunel University London, Biffa and Henley Marketing awarded £1.5m by UKRI to collaborate on a novel solution for sustainable homeware manufacture.

Recycled Polypropylene (PP) plastic will soon make a clean start comeback to the kitchen as a recycled homeware range called Reborn. Nearly all UK homeware products are made from synthetic polymers and plastics imported from Asia. This is a highly carbon-intensive process and counter-productive to the UK’s Net Zero targets.

With almost 70 million homeware items on average being thrown away in the UK every year, this is an important waste stream to address if we are to move towards a circular economy in earnest. Reborn presents a unique opportunity to drive improved sustainability across this value chain. 

Brunel University London, Biffa and Henley Marketing, supported by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will develop Reborn as a radical circular sustainable approach to homeware manufacture. This £1.5m Reborn venture will see waste plastics revived as factory-fresh low carbon sustainable washing-up bowls, dishracks and drainers stylish enough to stock the shelves at John Lewis. “Reborn promises to markedly reduce  the number of virgin plastics the UK imports, and most importantly, contributing to efforts to promote a circular plastics economy”, said Brunel University London’s Dr George Fern. “This closed-loop approach will sizeably shrink the carbon footprint of the large UK homewares industry and in doing so, help the UK reach its net zero carbon goals,” added George, who leads Wolfson Centre for Sustainable Materials Development and Processing.

The UKRI funding will fuel the first stage of the scheme set to create at least 32 new jobs within five years. Recyclable waste plastics  which are processed by one of the UK’s leading sustainable waste management companies, Biffa, are recycled into high quality recycled Polypropylene. Reborn homewares products will be manufactured from this material. For this exciting project, Brunel University’s department of Chemical Engineering will quality check the recycled plastic’s properties to assess its safety for home use; whilst ensuring it’s durable, long-lasting and, crucially, that the homewares products will be recyclable when no longer needed. 

The Brunel team, supported by Dr Eleni Iacovidou, of the Division of Environmental Sciences, will also track the lifecycle of the process to investigate the benefits of using recycled plastics from a carbon emissions and resources consumption perspective. This will be a comparative analysis with conventional virgin plastic import-reliant homeware products manufacture.
Shoppers will be able to buy innovative products from leading UK retailer John Lewis this Autumn.

Phil Goodier, Managing Director, Biffa Polymers, said: “As we strive to create more circular processes in the UK’s waste sector, it’s crucial for participants across the value chain to see the value in utilising good quality PP recyclate and designing products with the end-of-life perspective in mind. “We are excited to see the potential of Reborn’s novel approach to utilising recycled PP plastic for more sustainable outlets. It would be great to see food grade PP one day attaining the same closed loop circularity as post-consumer HDPE and PET plastics. In the meanwhile it’s great to know our material is being used for such a sustainable and impactful purpose.”

The funding for this project forms part of the UKRI National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research programme (NICER) in support of SMEs for the circular economy.
ReBorn homeware