The Circular Future Fund sought pioneering ideas that could challenge our current throwaway society by demonstrating the benefits of a more circular approach. 245 applicants took up the challenge with an extraordinarily wide range of ideas and concepts. From these applicants four have won a share of the £1 million fund. What was it that made these winners stand out to the expert grant panel?

The Circular Future Fund was created thanks to investment from the John Lewis Partnership using funds generated by the 10p plastic bag charge. It was promoted and managed by Hubbub building on our growing expertise in this area. The ambition was to seek trail-blazing ideas that had the potential to boost the circular economy by changing existing approaches in a way that could be scalable. Using this criteria, the following four projects were selected.

Sustainable footwear, Pip and Henry

On average a young child replaces their shoes every four months with a staggering 85% of those shoes going to landfill. Pip and Henry is exploring two solutions to radically disrupt the industry. One will develop designs for expandable shoes that grow with the child, minimising the need to regularly replace them. Another will investigate design options that will allow for shoes to be more easily recycled into their separate materials to reduce landfill waste.  

Thanks to the grant funding, Pip and Henry will be able to test the feasibility of their ideas. Their learnings, technology and innovation will be shared with the wider footwear industry enabling it to explore a more circular approach.

Polyester infinity, University of Leeds

Polyester is the world’s most consumed fibre and yet recycled polyester only contributes to 15% of the total market almost all of which is made from plastic bottles. A more circular approach would be to recycle waste polyester back into clothing quality fibre. To-date this isn’t happening at scale because of the complexity, cost and environmental implications of removing dye. Leeds University believes it has potentially found a solution that uses new CO2 technology to separate dyes to enable easier recycling of this popular fabric.  

Thanks to the grant funding, Leeds University will be able to further test the feasibility of their approach enabling them to assess whether they can cut environmental impact by reusing the removed dye, recycling water used in the process and cutting energy and pollution.

Period product service, DAME

The perfect circular period product has existed for decades in the form of the reusable menstrual cup but there is a behaviour chasm, with only 5% of people with periods using menstrual cups.

DAME's idea is to launch a campaign and new digital platform which educates and supports people as they make the switch to menstrual cups. Interested customers 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 to help find the right size and answer questions to overcome fear of the unknown. 

This evolution of the product seeks to overcome barriers by helping reduce its cost and by making it easier to try, with the aim of reaching new audiences. 

Lend and mend spaces, Scottish 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 wants to launch a pilot to turn up to 10 Scottish libraries into ‘lend and mend’ spaces to become community hubs for repair and reuse and develop a long-term model for libraries to be a hub of circular economy activities. The funding will create a body of evidence demonstrating the role that libraries can play in mainstreaming the circular economy. They will also be fitted out with the circular economy in mind.

Outlining their commitment to the fund 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.”

Hubbub’s role will be to ensure that the winners are able to learn from each other and have access to external experts. Crucially, we will measure the impact of the grants and share learnings widely hoping that the fund can act as a catalyst encouraging more organisations to explore circular options.

Read more about the fund

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