Waitrose offers £1m for plastic waste reduction projects

Waitrose offers £1m for plastic waste reduction projects£1 million is on offer from Waitrose & Partners for projects aiming to tackle plastic pollution.

In partnership with behaviour change charity Hubbub, the supermarket has today (28 January) announced its new initiative, ‘Plan Plastic – The Million Pound Challenge’, which will see grants of between £150,000 to £300,000 awarded to projects designed to reduce unnecessary plastic and address plastic pollution.

The pot of £1 million has been raised from Waitrose’s sale of five pence carrier bags. While there is no law requiring retailers to use this revenue in a specific way, the government has stated that it ‘expects’ that the proceeds will go to ‘good causes’. In 2017/18, £51.6 million was donated to charitable causes in England, equating to 3.8 pence for every bag sold (based on data from 153 retailers).

Waitrose, which has committed to removing all five pence plastic bags from its stores by March this year, is now putting the proceeds from the charge back into plastic reduction projects.

Applications are now open for charities, academic bodies, community interest companies, social enterprises or schools and colleges working in one of five main project areas:

  1. Plastics in the community: Plastic recycling projects that provide a social benefit for communities.
  2. Education: Campaigns aimed at raising awareness of plastic pollution among children and young people.
  3. Public behaviour change: Campaigns to inspire new ways of sustainable shopping and living.
  4. Food, agriculture and farming: Projects focusing on finding alternatives, reducing use, and increasing reuse of plastics in the food, agriculture and farming industries.
  5. Microplastics: Projects aimed at providing new information, solutions and ideas around microplastic pollution.

Hubbub, the charity that Waitrose is partnering with on the Plan Plastic initiative, has a long history of leading educational and behaviour-changing campaigns around plastic use – for instance its ‘plastic fishing’ project, which involves getting schools and office groups out on the Thames to collect plastic waste.

Waitrose plastic-free food trays
New recyclable trays to replace black plastic, introduced by Waitrose
Hubbub’s CEO and Founder Trewin Restorick described Waitrose’s new grant as “tremendously exciting”, saying: “It will support innovative thinking on how to combat the issue of plastic pollution. We’ll be on the lookout for entries that really demonstrate a tangible impact and that will have a longer-term legacy beyond the grant funding stage. We’d encourage any eligible organisation working in this space to apply via the website.”

Hubbub will be helping to support the winning applications, as well as to measure the impact of the grants.

Tor Harris, Waitrose’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Health and Agriculture, added: “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. 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 has piloted a number of initiatives to cut down on single-use and hard-to-recycle packaging in its stores, including banning the use of disposable coffee cups, which were previously handed out for free as part of the supermarket’s hot drink scheme for loyalty card customers.

There are also plans to replace plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables with compostable bags, and to stop using black plastic in Waitrose own-label products – black plastic is generally not accepted for recycling as sorting machines cannot distinguish the carbon black pigment used.

The supermarket has pledged to make all of its packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2023, two years ahead of the UK Plastics Pact goals, which Waitrose has signed up to. It states that the combination of measures it is introducing will ‘cut almost 134 million bags each year from the environment, which equates to 500 tonnes of plastic.’

Applications for a grant from Waitrose are open until 24 February and can be submitted via the Plan Plastic Fund website.

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