eBay UK and British Fashion Council team up to support circular economy innovation

The Fund provides small businesses, charities and social enterprises with grant funding intended to support the development of fashion business models that reduce waste in the sector.

Previous winners have been pioneers of rental, resale, repair and next-generation inventory solutions. There has also been support for children’s fashion which can be made bigger as the wearer grows.In 2022, the Fund received more than 500 applications.

This time around, eBay UK and the British Fashion Council are expecting even more applications. They are making a total of six grants available, each of a maximum of £25,000. Alongside the financial support, innovators will receive a six-week mentoring programme.

Applicants will need to prove how innovative their solution is and set out the likely benefits in terms of environmental impact. They will also need to set out a credible plan for scaling their solution.

Experts from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and environmental charity Hubbub are assisting with the judging process after applications close on 20 October 2023.

“The UK fashion industry is at the forefront of innovation driving to make circularity the future of fashion,” said eBay’s global general manager of fashion Kirsty Keoghan.

“At eBay, we’ve seen firsthand that start-ups and small businesses are a significant driving force behind this ambition for change. Following the hugely successful first year of the Fund, we’re committed to identifying and scaling more UK businesses to help make the change we all want to see.”

eBay has also confirmed this week that an Australian edition of the Circular Fashion Innovator’s Fund will be launching.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that a bin lorry full of fashion is dumped, landfilled or burned every second. It has previously stated that less than 2% of the clothes made every year are recycled into new textiles.

John Lewis Partnership’s Circular Future Fund

In related news, retail giant the John Lewis Partnership has released an impact report detailing progress made by the winners of its Circular Future Fund, funded using money raised by charges levied on its plastic bags.

Run in partnership with Hubbub, the fund provided £1m to four projects this time last year. Each of the projects concerned the development of solutions to the linear economy.

The report states that the four projects “each reported significant progress with proven results that leave a strong legacy for their respective industries”.

The first winner was menstrual product brand DAME, which hosted a series of surveys and discussions intended to identify – and find solutions to – common concerns around menstrual cup use. DAME estimates that just 5% of Britain’s menstruating population use cups, largely due to concerns around comfort, hygiene, leaking and not knowing how to insert a cup.

Proposed solutions to these concerns include the launch of a free user guide online and the development of a self-sanatising cup.

Other projects covered in the report are Pip & Henry’s research and development related to expandable shoes for children; the Scottish Library and Information Council’s drive to scale a network of ‘lend and mend’ hubs and a University-of-Leeds-led scheme seeking to enable polyester to be dyed or stripped for dye that could support garment recycling.

“The four projects, while very different in nature, shared an ambition to bring innovative, creative and entrepreneurial approaches to designing out waste in their respective sectors,” said Hubbub director Saskia Restorick. “This forward-thinking fund, along with the winners’ hard work and dedication has enabled them to find tangible solutions and gain huge amounts of insight and knowledge.”

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