Mike Corran, Managing Director of Prestige
Packaging, with Dr Antony Robotham (Credit: Jude Palmer/Royal Academy of Engineering)
Prestige Packaging applied to the Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund to help support their development of innovative carbon-neutral packaging products through carbon-neutral production and distribution. 
Prestige Packaging have been supplying print and packaging for over 25 years from their factory in Plympton, Devon. In 2020, they were awarded the President's Special Award for Pandemic Service from the Royal Academy of Engineering for their development of a recyclable face shield, in collaboration with the University of Plymouth’s Dr Antony Robotham
Prestige Packaging are committed to measuring and lowering their environmental impact for the benefit of their business, customers and the planet. The Race to Net Zero is a global commitment by businesses and governments to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 at the latest in order to keep global warming below 1.5oC. By joining this commitment, Prestige Packaging will reduce costs, build on their reputation for innovation, prepare for legislation changes, and differentiate themselves from competitors. 
Following their application to the Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund, the Low Carbon Devon team linked the company with expertise within the University to assist with identifying new market opportunities and designing innovative and disruptive packaging solutions. This new collaboration combined the expertise of Dr Antony Robotham, Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering, with Research Assistants working in the fields of the Circular Economy and Marketing. Masters design students also helped with the later design stages of the project. 
Mike Corran, Managing Director of Prestige Packaging said:
"The support from the team has been invaluable; not just signposting us to the Make it Net Zero (SWMAS) programme for access to small grants towards the solar PV but also the education of simple ways to start the journey of reducing your carbon. I personally found the workshops to be extremely helpful with the opportunity to share your findings with like minded local businesses." 
What were the challenges?
  1. To understand how packaging products can be produced ex-works and distributed to customers in a carbon-neutral manner. 
  2. To identify where further investment in equipment and infrastructure is required to enable carbon-neutral production. 
  3. To identify new market opportunities for innovative carbon-neutral packaging products that will enable growth in turnover and extend supply nationwide.  
University of Plymouth Research Associate Amanda Burton began working on site with Prestige Packaging one day a week. Amanda is a Designer Engineer for the Circular Plastics Economy and brought her particular skill-set to conduct an Energy Audit. The checklist for the Audit consists of around 200 questions to invite observations and potential actions to reduce energy use. Amanda undertook carbon footprinting steps for Prestige Packaging, gathering data for scope 1 and 2 emissions. She made recommendations for carbon reduction measures including reutilising waste heat from production for office space heating and switching fleet vehicle fuel type. 
She was also able to introduce them to technological solutions such as a high-efficiency compressor and to consider a specialist energy monitoring system to further understand and optimise energy use in production. She advised on the specification and procurement of the new 75kWp high-capacity solar PV system.
She also helped them with the processes of marketing for new business development, conducting case studies of existing examples of carbon neutral and circular processes including novel lightweighting of vehicles as well as circular return-and-reuse systems for pallets. All the recommendations of carbon saving opportunities were compiled into a detailed Action Plan.
Prestige Packaging presented some design challenges for new products including reusable fast-food takeaway packaging, which Amanda brought to the Advanced Engineering Design MSc students, setting the challenges within the wider context of Design for the Circular Economy. She introduced Prestige Packaging to relevant teams within Plymouth City Council to discuss the potential for branded paper takeaway food containers to be created for Council events, replacing expanded foam containers.
What was the outcome?
Prestige Packaging are actively reducing their carbon footprint by carrying out an Environmental Audit of current processes, setting targets for reducing impacts in order to deliver carbon-neutral products and creating an Action Plan to work towards environmental targets. 
  • Resulting in plans to recycle 90% of waste, and reuse 70% of pellets .
  • Plans to install an electric vehicle charging point for staff and visitor use. 
  • Plans to install solar PV.
Mike Corran tells us there have already been significant energy savings: 
"So far just the Solar PV has generated 16.58 MWh, 6.63 tons of coal saved, 7.88 tons CO2 avoided and equivalent of planting 11 trees. It’s too early to share the other savings from the LED lighting and installation of low energy compressors. We will be able to also calculate the carbon saving from switching from diesel to HVO fuel."
Enabled by the expertise of the University of Plymouth academic team, Prestige Packaging are now able to offer over a million new plastic free packaging alternatives to supermarkets. Once testing is complete, this will generate considerable sales for the future, already creating two full time roles within the company and an estimated reduction in carbon output of over 200 tons annually.
Prestige Packaging develop plastic free Cornish tea 
Cornish Tea & Coffee wanted to reduce or eliminate all plastic from their packaging products and working with Prestige Packaging and University academics they have developed a cardboard alternative to the plastic lined coffee pouch for their retail offering which retains shelf appeal. 
The partnership with the University has also led to the development of a new valve which is mounted into the carton during production on a specially made carton board material. The new nature flex valve allows the CO2 to escape but has the airtight integrity to ensure fresh tasting coffee. As a new glue formula has been introduced to seal the carton seams, this package has been tested in the University laboratories to ensure the fresh taste of both bean and ground coffee. Following successful testing they are aiming to bring this plastic free alternative product to all retailers.
Prestige Packaging Cornish Tea
Prestige Packaging collaborating with Cornish Tea
The Low Carbon Devon project was a five-year European Regional Development Fund project held at the University of Plymouth supporting Devon businesses to transition to the low carbon economy closing in mid-2023.
The project served as a catalyst for low carbon economic growth in Devon via the Future Shift internship programme, a series of free events and by connecting enterprises with expertise within the University of Plymouth.
The project collaborated with over 130 innovative Devon enterprises who are developing sustainable practices and securing opportunities in the low carbon economy.
To find out more about the University of Plymouth's business services visit Enterprise Solutions
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