Next in our series looking at Materials and Sustainability, we take a look at a KTP between Heriot-Watt University & Aquapak Polymers Ltd

The project is looking to investigate the environmental implications of Aquapak’s innovative plastic polymers that have the potential to reduce the impact of plastic waste on the environment. 

About Aquapak Polymers Ltd

Aquapak Polymers is the developer and manufacturer of innovative environmental plastic materials based in the West Midlands.

Hydropol™ – one of their solutions – allows packaging designers to replace packaging containing generally unrecyclable traditional plastics to be replaced with a highly functional polymer allowing multiple end-of-life options specifically designed for the circular economy but one that biodegrades safely and harmlessly in the environment. 

It can be used on its own or, more importantly, combined with other materials including paper and other biopolymers and is suitable as a film, laminate, coating, or in rigid form.

The KTP 

Aquapak Polymers has partnered with researchers in Heriot-Watt University’s Consortium for Plastics and Sustainability (COMPASS) to investigate the behaviour, ecotoxicology, and decomposition of these polymers – Hydropol. 

Joining the project as a KTP Associate was Dr. Joel Kuhn, Student from Heriot-Watt University. Joel’s PhD in Chemical Engineering brought expertise from a multidisciplinary perspective, with backgrounds in material science, surface chemistry and data analysis to biology, biomedicine and environmental toxicology.

Prof Ted Henry HWU, KTP project lead explains: 

“The Hydropol polymer has unique properties with the potential to contribute to the future direction of plastics within the circular economy and reduction of environmental impacts.  Results of our investigations of dissolved Hydropol are consistent with previous reports that this material is innocuous to aquatic life for the variety of organisms that have been tested.  

Further investigation into the decomposition of the polymers within the environment by abiotic and biotic factors is ongoing to establish rates and processes.  These analyses will enhance understanding of how the attractive properties and unique opportunities of Hydropol could be part of the solution to achieve circular economies for plastics”

Comment from Dr John Williams, Company Supervisor: 

“The investigations of HWU into the behaviour, ecotoxicology and decomposition of these polymers have provided not only vital data for Aquapak but also a new way of approaching these issues, which we believe will have impacts well beyond this initial study. We are looking forward to building on this important work over the coming years.

Status of the project 

The project duration was two years with a kick-off date in August 2019. In March 2022, the project was successfully finalised with continued engagement between Heriot-Watt University & Aquapak Polymers.

About KTP’s

KTPs are funded by UKRI through Innovate UK with the support of co-funders, including the Scottish Funding Council, Welsh Government, Invest Northern Ireland, Defra and BEIS. Innovate UK manages the KTP programme and facilitates its delivery through a range of partners including Innovate KTN, Knowledge Bases and Businesses. Each partner plays a specific role in the support and delivery of the programme.

If you have an innovative business idea and would like to see if a KTP could help take it forward,  get in touch.

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