John Lewis Partnership is channeling £1million from plastic bag charging into circular economy innovations

Launched last November as part of the retail giant’s partnership with environmental charity Hubbub, the funding has been set aside with money raised from the sale of Lifetime Plastic Bags. It is part of the John Lewis Partnership’s work to develop and scale permanent buy-back or trade-in programs for all product categories by 2025.

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

The first successful candidate was Pip and Henry, who develop solutions to minimize the waste of children’s shoes. Pip and Henry’s research found that children under the age of seven replace their shoes on average every four months. As most shoes are not designed to be recycled easily, 85% of discarded children’s shoes in the UK are sent to landfill or incineration.

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

Also in the field of fashion, funding will be allocated to the “Polyester Infinity” program at the University of Leeds. Researchers are studying low-water, low-emission methods to recycle polyester waste. The recycled polyester used by major fashion brands is usually made from plastic bottles because it is difficult to remove dyes from polyester fabrics.

According to the Changing Markets Foundation, global polyester production has doubled worldwide since 2020. Most clothing sold commercially now includes a polyester blend or pure polyester components. This poses challenges regarding lifecycle emissions, garment durability, garment recyclability, and microfiber shedding.

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

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

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

“Our throwaway culture and the waste it generates are undoubtedly some of the biggest challenges we will face in our lifetimes and addressing them will require a different kind of thinking,” said the Chief Ethics and Sustainability of the John Lewis Partnership, Marija Rompani.

“All of these inspiring projects have the potential to create real impact and will provide valuable learnings to promote the urgent need for a more circular way of life. With the funding awarded for the coming year, we want to help these incredible ideas to thrive for the long term benefit of us all.

John Lewis Partnership, via 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 May 23

Taking place May 23-27, Circular Economy Week 2022 is edie’s themed week of editorial content and events dedicated to supporting sustainability, energy and resource efficiency professionals to accelerate the transition to an economy without 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 inspirational sessions on the afternoon of May 26, with experts from L’Oréal, Toast Ale, EY, Reconomy, Canon and more. Click here for more information and to register for free.

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Bryce K. Locke