John Lewis Partnership funnels £1m raised through plastic bag charge into circular economy innovations

Launched last November as part of the retail giant’s partnership with environmental charity Hubbub, the funding was set aside using money raised through sales of plastic bags for life. It forms part of John Lewis Partnership’s work to develop and scale permanent buy-back or take-back schemes for all product categories by 2025.

The John Lewis Partnership and Hubbub have today (16 May) announced which four projects will receive a share of the funding and revealed that 245 applications were made to the fund.

The first successful applicant was Pip and Henry, which is developing solutions to minimize wasted children’s shoes. Pip and Henry research has revealed that children under the age of seven replace their shoes, on average, every four months. As most shoes are not designed for easy recycling, 85% of children’s shoes thrown away in the UK are sent to landfill or incineration.

Pip and Henry’s solutions are to design shoes that can be expanded as children grow, and to design shoes that are easier to recycle. The brand has already had success designing shoes made from organic and recycled materials.

Also in the fashion space, funding will be allocated to the University of Leeds’ ‘Polyester Infinity’ programme. Researchers are investigating low-water, low-emission methods of recycling waste polyester. Recycled polyester used by big-name fashion brands is typically made using plastic bottles, as it is challenging to remove dyes from polyester fabrics.

According to the Changing Markets Foundation, global polyester production has doubled globally since 2020. Most garments sold on the high street now include polyester blend or pure polyester components. This poses challenges regarding lifecycle emissions, garment durability, garment recyclability and microfibre shedding.

The other two projects receiving a share of funding are from period product brand DAME and the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC).

DAME will use the funds to develop and launch a new digital platform which educates and supports people as they make the switch from disposable menstrual products – tampons and sanitary pads – to reusable menstrual cups. Duquense University School of Nursing estimates that, without reusable solutions, the average woman will use at least 9,120 tampons or sanitary towels in her lifetime. Most of these products contain plastics.

Finally, the SLIC is working to launch up to ten ‘lend and mend’ spaces at libraries across Scotland. The spaces will be staffed by volunteers and people will be able to come along to lend out household items they use rarely, and access advice on repair. This is similar to the ‘Library of Things’ movement in England and the ‘People’s Workshops’ in Norway.

“Our throw-away culture and the waste it generates are unquestionably among the biggest challenges we will face in our lifetime and tackling them will require a different kind of thinking,” said the John Lewis Partnership’s director of ethics and sustainability Marija Rompani.

“All these inspirational projects have the potential to create real impact and will provide valuable learnings in promoting the urgent need to adopt a more circular way of living.   With the funding awarded for the year ahead we want to help these amazing ideas to thrive for the long-term benefit of us all.”

John Lewis Partnership, through Waitrose & Partners, has previously worked with Hubbub to allocate £1m to innovators working to solve the plastic pollution crisis. 

Join the conversation: edie’s Circular Economy Week starts on 23 May

Taking place from 23 to 27 May, Circular Economy Week 2022 is edie’s themed week of editorial content and events dedicated to supporting sustainability, energy and resource efficiency professionals in accelerating the transition to an economy free from waste and single-use plastics.

Click here for a full list of what to expect and information on how you can get involved. The main attraction will be our afternoon of online Circular Economy Inspiration Sessions on the afternoon of 26 May, featuring experts from L’Oreal, Toast Ale, EY, Reconomy, Canon and more. Click here for full information and to register for free. 

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