Retailer Waitrose & Partners has today (28 January) launched a new £1m grant scheme which will funnel investment into projects and products aimed at tackling the global plastic pollution problem.
Developed in partnership with environmental charity Hubbub and funded by Waitrose & Partners’ carrier bag charge, the company’s ‘Plan Plastic – The Million-pound Challenge’ initiative will award money to innovators who can prove their concepts will have a measurable and positive impact on the world’s ongoing plastic waste problem.
Funding will be split across five key areas – plastics in the community, education, behaviour change, microplastics and food, agriculture and farming.
The plastics in the community pillar covers projects encouraging and enabling recycling and reuse, as well as those promoting wellbeing through circular economy principles in their local areas.
The behaviour change pillar, meanwhile, will fund schemes aiming to inspire and enable new, less plastic-intense ways of shopping and consuming products.
“We take this issue very seriously and are making progress all the time, but we’re determined to maintain our momentum as well as supporting others to do the same,” Waitrose & Partners’ head of CSR, health and agriculture Tor Harris said.
“We hope the fund will help find new and effective ways of accelerating action to rethink how we all use and dispose of plastic now and in the future.”
Successful applicants will be given between £150,000 and £300,000 by Waitrose & Partners, plus support from Hubbub staff to implement their concepts. The retailer is encouraging schools and colleges, charities, academic bodies and social enterprises to apply, in addition to startups.
The application process will remain open until 24 February, with chosen grantees due to be announced in May.
The launch of the Challenge comes as Waitrose & Partners works towards a 2025 goal of making all its own-brand packaging is either recyclable, reusable or home compostable.
Since setting this target in 2016, the retailer has banned the sale of single-use plastic straws and disposable coffee cups in all of its UK stores, following earlier phase-outs of products such as plastic-stemmed cotton buds and microbead-based health and beauty lines.
It has additionally pledged to remove black plastic, which is notoriously hard-to-recycle, from all own-brand products by the end of 2019, and to eliminate plastic-based glitter from its own-label lifestyle products by Christmas 2020.
As for carrier bags, Waitrose & Partners is currently removing single-use plastic bags from its fruit and vegetable aisles 5p carrier bags from its checkouts. Compostable produce bags and reusable tote bags will be offered as alternatives in all stores by spring.
In a bid to drive change outside of its operations, Waitrose & Partners last year donated £500,000 to the Commonwealth Marine Plastics Research and Innovation Fund and a further £500,000 to the Marine Conservation Society (MSC). The money, raised via the retailer’s 5p bag charge, is being used to support projects cleaning beaches, rivers and oceans.
The supermarket has additionally backed the Marine Plastics Research and Innovation Framework– a UK-led research and innovation hub that aims to tackle plastic waste through innovative solutions.