John Lewis takes aim at ‘throwaway’ culture in retail sector

Lavern Vogel

John Lewis has promised £1m to tackle the retail industry’s “throwaway” culture. 

The employee-owned firm is calling on academics, charities and small businesses to pitch ideas to help cut waste and pollution across food, textiles and household products. 

It will provide grants between £150,000 and £300,000 to the most innovative ideas to challenge the industry’s “outdated make/use/throw away” model. John Lewis raised the fund from sales of 10p plastic bags over a two-year period.

Marija Rompani of John Lewis said: “We live in a world of finite materials and we need to start protecting them before it’s too late.

“This is why we’re particularly looking for projects that are regenerative and can eliminate waste or pollution from the design stage and ultimately protect nature.”

John Lewis is working with Hubbub, a charity and social enterprise that focuses on sustainability.

The retailer said the total removal of single use carrier bags would potentially reduce the availability of revenues for similar funds in the future, “but we will always be looking for ways to support innovation”.

In May, John Lewis shops in Cheltenham, Kingston and Leeds began trialling the removal of single use plastic carrier bags.

In 2019 it launched a similar £1m fund to reduce plastic waste and it picked five winners from around 150 applications.

They included a project that used mussels to help stem the flow of microplastics from polluted estuaries and coastal water.

 Any findings from John Lewis’ “Circular Future Fund” will be shared with the industry. 

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