The John Lewis Partnership unveils the winners of its £1m Circular Future Fund

Expandable and recyclable children’s shoes, a game-changing period service the use of new COtechnology to separate dyes from polyester to enable recycling, and a ‘lend and mend’ scheme in Scotland are the four trailblazing projects that have been awarded a share of the John Lewis Partnership’s £1m Circular Future Fund.  In addition to the much needed funds to develop each winner’s projects, the environmental charity Hubbub will measure the impact of the grants.

The million pound challenge was launched in November 2021 to find scalable projects with an alternative approach to the outdated linear ‘make…use…throw-away’ model.  The fund was raised from sales of 10p plastic bags.

The winners were chosen by an independent panel of industry experts, including senior representatives from John Lewis & Partners and with support from Hubbub.  Overall a staggering 245 projects applied for the fund, with eight selected to pitch to the panel and a final four organisations were awarded grants.  The four winners will be supported by Hubbub over the next year to develop and achieve their ambitions. 

The Winning Ideas:

  • SUSTAINABLE FOOTWEAR, Pip & Henry.  On average a young child replaces its shoes every four months with a staggering 85 per cent of those shoes going to landfill.[1]  Pip & Henry is exploring two solutions to radically disrupt the industry; creating designs for expandable shoes that grow with the child, minimising the need to replace them as regularly, as well as investigating design options that will allow for shoes to be more easily recycled into their separate materials to reduce landfill waste. 
  • POLYESTER INFINITY, University of Leeds.  Polyester is the world’s most consumed textile fibre and yet recycled polyester only contributes to 15 per cent[2] of the total production almost all of which is made from plastic bottles.  There has been a barrier to recycling polyester fabric because until now it has been difficult to remove the dyes from it.  The Leeds Institute of Textiles and Colour working alongside the Wolfson CO2 Laboratory in the School of Chemistry are researching a solution that uses new CO2 technology to separate dyes to enable easier recycling of this popular fabric.
  • PERIOD PRODUCT SERVICE, DAME.  The perfect circular period product, the menstrual cup, has existed for decades, yet it remains a niche product.   How can we make it easier and more desirable to use the menstrual cup?  DAME’s idea is to launch a campaign and new digital platform which educates and supports users as they make the switch.  Interested people with periods will receive a starter kit of various shapes and sizes to test while only paying for what they keep, all supported by a digital assistant.
  • LEND AND MEND SPACESScottish Library and Information (SLIC). Scotland’s libraries are visited over 40 million times each year providing a captive audience for this pioneering project. Inspired by the ‘People’s Workshops’ in Norway, SLIC want to create a pilot of up to 10 attractive circular economy community spaces within libraries, with workshops, lending facilities and repair hubs.

Marija Rompani, director of ethics and sustainability at the John Lewis Partnership, said:  “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.  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.”

Saskia Restorick, director of Hubbub, said: “It is vital to rethink waste at this critical time for the environment, which means looking at new ways to value the goods we produce, buy and use. The quality and quantity of entries for the fund has shown us the wealth of ideas out there and given us real hope that things can be done differently.  The four winners have the potential to deliver a positive and innovative impact on a national and even global scale and we look forward to supporting them to bring their visions to life.”.