DS Smith invests £100m into circular economy R&D
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DS Smith invests £100m into circular economy R&D

By Jessica Paige 11 May 2021 (Last Updated May 11th, 2021 15:36)

UK-headquartered plastic-free packaging provider DS Smith has announced that it plans to invest £100m into research and development (R&D) over five years to help the packaging industry progress towards a circular economy.

UK-headquartered plastic-free packaging provider DS Smith has announced that it plans to invest £100m into research and development (R&D) over five years to help the packaging industry progress towards a circular economy.

The research will include the creation of ‘Unit 17’, a new prototyping and testing facility in the UK. It also aims to accelerate new material investment including alternative natural fibres and fully recyclable and translucent packaging as an alternative to plastic windows in sandwich and ready meals pack.

Researchers will carry out in-depth analysis on different fibres to optimise strength, resilience, and recyclable properties, and implement trials to strengthen natural paper fibres, meaning that excess fibre can be removed from packaging.

The research will also focus on the supply chain, analysing how G-force impacts packaging in transit to reduce wastage, prevent damaged parcels, and offer a better overall delivery service to companies.

DS Smith will also focus on its Now and Next sustainability strategy, which aims to provide fully recyclable packaging for all its customers within two years.

Under the sustainability strategy, the company will replace one billion pieces of supermarket and e-commerce plastic by 2025.

Response from DS Smith

DS Smith chief executive Miles Roberts said: “How we live our lives is changing fast due to many factors, and how we all take care of the environment is a top priority.

“We are now investing more than previous years to ensure that we are leading this change and can offer customers packaging that has less impact on the environment.

“DS Smith makes sustainable packaging that is fibre-based and fully recyclable. We continue to focus on reducing the impact of our operations on the environment but, importantly, we are able to contribute to wider society by providing circular packaging solutions and supporting our customers in transitioning to a circular economy.”

DS Smith business on the rise

As well as announcing this new R&D investment, DS Smith also recently announced news of its trading, stating that box volume growth accelerated in March and that general sales figures are in line with expectations, despite the increase of input costs.

DS Smith owed the growth in box volume sales to the growing e-commerce and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry. It expects financial results for the full year ending 30 April 2021 to be as expected.

Roberts said: “I am pleased to report continued positive momentum across the business. Our long-term strategic direction focused on FMCG and consumer markets, embracing e-commerce and technology-based solutions, has been accelerated by consumer trends resulting from the pandemic.

“Corrugated box volumes have grown progressively throughout the financial year with the second half expected to achieve a volume increase in excess of 7% over the comparative period last year.”

“We are investing in new box plants in Italy and Poland, and we are expanding capacity in Germany. Demand from our industrial customer base has improved.

In March, DS Smith announced it will invest in two new advanced packaging sites in Europe.

The company said that the facilities in Belchatov, Poland, and Castelfranco Emilia, Italy, are expected to improve the local economy.