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Environment Minister Edwin Poots has welcomed a new partnership that will fund training places for packaging technologists in a drive to find more sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics.

Making the announcement that 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 Minister said it was time to rethink plastic in all packaging.

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

“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. 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.

“We know that with the pending introduction of the Plastic Packaging Tax that 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,” Minister Poots added.

Vickerstock’s specialist recruiter Paul Muir said: “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, future success of the students and benefits to the industry as a whole.”

The Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) comes into effect in Great Britain and Northern Ireland 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.