A new partnership will fund training for packaging technologists in Northern Ireland in a drive to find more sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics.

Vickerstock Recruitment will sponsor four students at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) to study for a Diploma in Packaging Technology.

The region's Environment Minister Edwin Poots said it was time to rethink plastic in all packaging.

It's ahead of plans to intoduce a Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) in the UK in April 2022.

It applies to plastic packaging produced in, or imported into, the UK, but will not apply to any plastic packaging which contains at least 30% recycled plastic, or any packaging which is not predominantly plastic by waste.

“It is unacceptable that far too much plastic ends up as pollution in our environment or waste in our landfills,” said Minister Poots.

It’s time to rethink how we produce plastic packaging and also how we can keep plastic in use for as long as possible by repeatedly recycling and reusing it.

“I’ve very proud to say CAFRE is the only college on the island of Ireland that offers the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining Diploma in Packaging Technology, which is internationally recognised as the premier qualification for packaging professionals."

'One of Ireland’s most important sectors'

"These future packaging technologists can play a very important role in developing the circular economy in Northern Ireland and encouraging the use of recycled material," Poots said.

We know that with the pending introduction of the Plastic Packaging Tax the demand for skilled packaging technologists is growing large packaging manufacturers are looking for more sustainable alternatives in their production.

"So it is very important that we equip these students with the latest knowledge and skills needed to help us use both less plastic and more sustainable forms of it."

Vickerstock’s specialist recruiter Paul Muir added: “This partnership with CAFRE fits with the wider vision of our company to promote and encourage career opportunity and entry into one of Ireland’s most important sectors, we hope that this will provide another stepping stone in career development, the future success of the students and benefits to the industry as a whole."