What is the Plastic Packaging Tax?

At the beginning of April, the UK’s Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) was introduced, in a serious attempt by the government to break the chain in the UK’s plastic circular economy.

The idea of a tax on plastic, or certain plastics, is something that has been previously touched upon as a way to reduce plastic pollution in the UK – but this is the first time that legislation like this has been implemented.

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It’s no secret that laundry is a task that creates particular disdain, whether it be at home or commercially. As a result, this essential chore – and the products used – can often be seen as a job to get out of the way rather than a process within a successful, sustainable cleaning regime.

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On 10 – 13 May, RAI Amsterdam will turn into the world capital of the cleaning and hygiene industry. Join BioHygiene, CSE and thousands of like-minded professionals to:

  • Stay ahead of the curve and discover the latest products and innovations from some of the world’s leading brands.
  • Expand your knowledge and gain insight from industry leaders as they debate and discuss the most pressing issues.
  • Build your network and meet industry professionals from around the globe.

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Housing 21 is a leading not-for-profit provider of Retirement Living and Extra Care properties for older people of modest means. They operate in nearly 200 local authority areas, managing around 20,000 Retirement and Extra Care Living properties and providing over 38,000 hours of social care each week.

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Earth Day is a global event dedicated to environmental protection. It was was founded in 1970 by Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin, after he witnessed the ravages of the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.

Today, it acts as a a reminder to protect the environment, restore damaged ecosystems and live a more sustainable life.

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It wasn’t too long ago that plastic was seen as the material of the future: hailed as versatile, strong and reliable. When polyethylene (the most common plastic – used to create packaging, bottles and the main cause of pollution) was discovered in 1933, nobody could have imagined the global impact of the plastic bottle.

The issues surrounding plastic bottles – particularly single-use plastic – have intensified massively in just a few years. One likely reason is that, unlike invisible pollutants such as Co2 and methane, plastic pollution is visible to all. It is not unusual to see parks, beaches and other areas of natural beauty besieged with disposed plastic bottles.

Impacting everything from our oceans to our own health – the environmental impact of plastic bottles should not be overlooked!

Raw Materials

It is thought that over 90% of plastics originate from oil, natural gas, and coal – all unrenewable, and damaging to the environment. If no changes are made, the plastic industry will account for 20% of global oil consumption by 2050.

The environmental impact of the fossil fuel industry is well documented, and with more people turning to renewable sources where fossil fuels were once used, organisations such as Client Earth suggest “fossil fuel companies need another industry to take over demand”, with one of those being plastic production.

Oceans

The facts and statistics on the environmental damage of plastic bottles on the world’s oceans are devastating.

According to one source, one million seabirds and 100,000 fish, sea mammals, and turtles die every year due to plastic pollution. Another source, Plastic Oceans, state that one million marine animals are killed by plastic pollution every year. They also suggest that 10 million tonnes of plastic are dumped in our oceans annually – with a huge proportion of this weight being single-use plastic bottles.

Nowhere in the worlds’ oceans is a better example of the sheer volume of plastic pollution than in a specific part of the North Pacific dubbed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The area is thought to contain more than 3 million tonnes of plastic waste, covering an area twice the size of Texas. And, because the ‘island’ is floating in international waters, there is no government or organisation to hold directly accountable.

Microplastics and Human Health

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that measure less than 5mm across. Some microplastics are formed after breaking away from larger plastics that have broken down over time, others are made small intentionally for the purpose of cosmetic goods. For example, microbeads used in toothpastes and face scrubs.

One of the main problems with microplastics is their persistence – they are almost impossible to remove from the various environments they accumulate in. Due to this, they have found microplastics almost everywhere that they have looked for them, including in oceans, on mountains, in the Artic Sea ice, in the air and even on our bodies.

When microplastics are swallowed by fish, they are introduced into the food chain when we eat fish. Microplastics can carry a range of contaminants, which when digested by humans can leach into our bodies. Some microplastics have carcinogenic properties and, although the overall risk to human life isn’t certain, can increase the likeliness of cancers and infertility.

Landfill  

One of the main reasons for plastics’ success over the years is its durability – however this is also why is has become such a problem.

Plastic bottles take roughly 450 years to decompose in a landfill site. Across the UK, we use 7.7 billion plastic bottles per year, and it is thought only 45% of these are recycled – meaning 55% of all plastic waste ends up in landfills, or the ocean. Landfills are not infinite and are not a  long-term solution to store plastic waste.

Solutions

There are various solutions that both business and individuals can take to help in the battle against plastic pollution.

One of the most effective is the use of recycled materials, rather than virgin plastics. For example, at BioHygiene, we use 100% post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR) to bottle our products. This means all of our bottles are made using material that is recycled and collected locally – there are varying levels of recycled material, from 30%-100%. Using PCR also results in a reduction in Co2e of up to 85% versus virgin plastic. Our technology also allows us to reduce the number of plastic bottles used as it is super concentrated.

The COVID-19 pandemic has once again shown healthcare to be one of, if not the, most important sectors on the planet. It is due to the life-saving work that is carried out that makes cleaning and sanitisation absolutely essential. Therefore, it is not surprising that healthcare uses an exceptionally high volume of cleaning and sanitisation products.

The products used need to be highly effective – in some healthcare instances, we are literally talking about life and death. But, what if the range of products used were not only efficient in keeping surfaces clean but also helped the healthcare sector reduce its Co2 emissions at the same time?

How Cleaning Biotechnology Works 

Biotech-based cleaning products work by attacking dirt on surfaces. They do this by emulsifying, lifting, dispersing, sequestering, suspending and decomposing soils. Active agents – known as surfactants – stir up surface activity to help trap and remove dirt. Surfactants can act as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, or dispersants.

At BioHygiene, our cleaning products harness the power of microbes, enzymes and natural plant extracts that work deep into surfaces to break down and remove dirt, grime and grease quickly.

The microbes used within the products, specifically bacteria, are present in the spore form. When the bacteria are introduced to suitable conditions, the spores germinate, and the bacteria begin to grow, colonising the application area.

Enzymes are added directly to our formulations, where they are referred to as “free enzymes”. They work the same way as bacterial enzymes, providing immediate action by breaking down organic matter and eliminating odours.

Free enzymes are used in conjunction with bacteria to provide an initial “kick-start” of activity until the microbial population is established and the bacteria start to do their work.

Residual Cleaning

Residual cleaning is an advantage of biotech cleaning that can particularly benefit hospitals and the healthcare sector. Whereas many traditional and non-biotech products simply clean when applied, biotech formulas continue to clean long after the standard cleaning process has finished.

Microbes break down organic matter and continue to ‘feed’ so long as there is a food source. They colonise an area, creating what’s known as a biofilm, and continue to work long after application, keeping odours at bay for longer.

This means that the product doesn’t need to be applied as often, resulting in much-needed cost savings for the healthcare sector, as well as leading to a cut in CO2e.

CO2e Reductions

There are many ways using certain products can help contribute to a reduction in CO2e. Where and how raw materials are sourced, the need to use less product and the type of packaging used can all have a substantial impact.

At BioHygiene, for example, we use a combination of Ecotec and Biotech ingredients, including plant extracts, microbes, enzymes and fermentation extracts, all with favourable ecotoxicity profiles and low health hazards. Extraction of raw materials is carried out in Europe, reducing transport-related CO2e from sourcing ingredients by 90% compared to chemical technology.

The eco-solvents used are made entirely from renewable, biobased resources that replace and reduce conventional solvent and hazardous chemicals and achieve a neutral or positive CO2e impact. Whilst long-lasting cleaning action enables customers to use less product, resulting in fewer deliveries and fewer CO2 emissions from transport.

Less product also means fewer bottles are used, reducing overall plastic waste. For instance, the plastic bottles used to package our range of products use 100% post-consumer resin (PCR), saving a further 85% CO2e.

Clearly, if the products are sourced from the right place, with the right ethics – it is very plausible that switching to something biotech-based can help keep surfaces cleaner for longer whilst keeping CO2e lower.

Why did you choose to embark on a career in science?

I have always been a biologist at heart, having been mad about natural history since the age of 3, so it seemed inevitable that I would develop a passion for biology at school, that I would study some form of it at university and that I would go on to pursue it as a career – I could never imagine doing anything else, to be honest.

When/how did you start your career?

I started with a degree in microbiology at Cardiff University but it soon became apparent that I would require further qualifications and experience in order to progress my career, so I returned to Cardiff to study for a PhD. This was followed by a research post at the University and then my first position in industry with QinetiQ plc.

What drives you to work so passionately? 

A combination of factors. I have always believed that it is important to give your best and go the extra mile and I have applied this approach to every job I have had, from a holiday job in a leisure centre whilst at Uni to my current post at Biological Preparations.

I am hugely passionate about the work we do here at BioPrep and BioHygiene, and am fortunate enough to have fantastic colleagues who make it such an amazing place to work.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

Firstly I suppose, doing what I wanted to do where I wanted to do it. As a youngster I did find it pretty challenging to move away to University and again down to Dorchester when I worked for QinetiQ. However there was no choice but to overcome these difficulties in order to do what I wanted to do. Patience was also required to find the job I wanted and the only way to overcome that was to keep trying!

Moving on, since I started working with biological products, it has sometimes been difficult to convince people about the merits of microbes and what they can do. This situation has improved over the years but there can still be some scepticism, not helped by the fact that there are still a lot of poorly formulated products out there.

I very much enjoy taking part in customer visits, carrying out demonstrations and organising customer trials to show how versatile microbes can be and how well they work in products for cleaning, odour removal, wastewater treatment, agriculture and other applications.

What are your proudest achievements?

Firstly, obtaining my degree and PhD. This might sound strange but I was the first in our immediate family to go to university and my father was from a much older generation when very few people went on to secondary school, let alone higher education. So at first he didn’t believe I could actually do it, but he was very proud to be proved wrong!

More latterly my proudest achievement has been working with friends and colleagues to start Biological Preparations in 2009 and being part of developing the Company into what it is today.

What is the best thing about working in science?

The variety (there is never a dull moment!) and the knowledge that you are contributing to a greater cause.

Have there been any major influencers that have inspired you in your career?

I have been fortunate to have a number of excellent teachers and supervisors who greatly inspired me during my education and early stages of my career.

At school, Mr P.J. Veale and Miss S.J. Dunn were fantastic biology teachers and really cemented my passion for the subject.

Moving on to university, all biology students studied the same first year and I was initially unsure which area I wanted to specialise in. Dr. D.J. Stickler’s fascinating lectures and practicals on medical microbiology led me to select a microbiology degree and follow this specialism as a career.

Finally I had two excellent PhD supervisors, Prof. A.D. Russell and Dr. J.-Y. Maillard, who were hugely motivating and inspirational. These great people all been major influencers on my career.

What advice would you give to young people starting in their career in science?

Just go for it! Science is an amazing career and you will always have variety and excitement in your work as well as the opportunity to contribute towards something greater. It can be quite hard to get started, gaining the right experience and finding the right job – you may get a few knockbacks along the way. But don’t give up – it’s well worth it.

Jak is the Quality Manager for Biological Preparations. He’s responsible for the day-to-day running of our QC lab, making sure all QC work, fermentations and technical support is on track as well as developing and implementing our Quality Management System (QMS).

Why did you choose to embark on a career in science?

I have had a lifelong interest in science, especially health, exercise, nutrition, and the environment.

I started practicing science at School and progressed into university. Following graduation I worked several jobs within manufacturing before starting my career at biological preparations April 2020.

What drives you to work so passionately? 

I have always had a passion for science. However, I think it has really come to light through the impact made over the past 2 years, throughout the pandemic. Knowing our products help keep society and the environment safe through testing times is a great sense of achievement.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome them? 

My biggest challenge was securing a full-time position within science post-graduation. As I had never worked in this environment before, I had to draw on all gained knowledge throughout school and university to demonstrate my ability to be successful within the role.

What are your proudest achievements?

To date, one of my proudest achievements is graduating Cardiff Metropolitan University with an upper-class 2:1 degree in Biomedical Science and securing a full-time job with Biological Preparations – a company that is as passionate about sustainability as I am and has allowed me to continuously learn and progress.

What is the best thing about working in science?

Science can be fun. Science is always progressing with new technologies coming to light, every day is different.

Who is the biggest influencer that has inspired you in your career?

Rosalind Elsie Franklin was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work was central to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite. She discovered the density of DNA and, more importantly, established that the molecule existed in a helical conformation. Her work to make clearer X-ray patterns of DNA molecules laid the foundation for James Watson and Francis Crick’s suggestion that DNA is a double-helix polymer in 1953.

What advice would you give to young people starting in their career in science?

Research careers you would be interested in and take full advantage in any opportunity that arises, try to secure training or placement in that field – if you are lucky to find an apprenticeship that pays for further training, development or even education. GO FOR IT!!

Jazz is an integral part of our R&D programme where she identifies and investigates new strains of bacteria for use in our products, as well as carries out crucial product testing to make sure they’re up to EN standards. A real team player, Jazz also supports the wider Technical and QC teams by carrying out in-house bacterial fermentations and support the QC lab.

Why did you choose to embark on a career in science?

I have always been interested in science as a general subject and I am an inquisitive person by nature; I also love to learn new skills. I chose to study Applied Sciences in college, and Biology in university. I was then able to start my professional career in early 2019 within a quality control laboratory at a brewery, which was a great starting point.

What drives you to work so passionately?

A career in science allows me to keep on learning, so the job never gets boring, there’s always something to do. Science is such a diverse subject, making jobs within science so interesting. You never know what’s coming next, it keeps things fresh and engaging. Boredom is rare in a career in science.

I like to see good results, which aren’t always guaranteed in microbiology! I always take pride in my work and put effort into each project I’m given so that I get the best results possible. I like to go home knowing I did my best, even when the results weren’t quite how I wanted them to be.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career?

I lost my job at the beginning of 2020 due to COVID-19 and didn’t know what the future was going to hold for my career in science. I began to apply for jobs that I was reasonably qualified to do and almost went back to retail.

When a job at Biological Preparations came up I knew it would be right up my street, and I was lucky enough to be one of the successful candidates, alongside Jak. Two years later and I’m happy to still be part of the BioPrep team.

What are your proudest achievements?

Aside from graduating university, my proudest achievement is my promotion from QC Technician to R&D Microbiologist. It was totally unexpected, but it was so nice to see my hard work in the lab had been recognised and that I was trusted to take on this role.

Who are the biggest influencers that have inspired you in your career?

My grandmother had a big influence on me wanting to learn more about microbiology. During the later stages of her career as a nurse, she spent a lot of time within one of the labs at the hospital and would always tell me about how beautiful she thought the bacteria looked under the microscope.

I now know what she meant, some of the worst bacteria are the most pretty under the microscope or streaked onto a plate, it’s fascinating.

What advice would you give to young people starting in their career in science?

Always try your best, have a go at everything and take all the opportunities you can. You never know where you could end up!

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