The Circular Future Fund awards circular ideas

One year on: John Lewis Partnership’s Circular Future Fund winners

It is now one year since the John Lewis Partnership’s (JLP) Circular Future Fund winners were announced – and the retail group has offered an update on what the successful four projects have achieved.

Run in association with environmental charity Hubbub, the £1 million fund launched in November 2021 calling for new ideas and innovations to transition towards a more circular economy.

The Circular Future Fund was raised from the sales of 10p plastic bags in Waitrose, and the quartet of projects were each awarded grants of between £150,000 and £300,000 to develop their concepts that each challenged the ‘make…use…throw-away’ culture in UK society.

JLP has released a full impact report explaining how the winners have progressed in the last 12 months. Here’s a summary, below:


Dame aimed to break down the barriers to using menstrual cups. After gaining insights into the barriers to cup use, the team behind the company identified the main concerns from consumers were comfort, leaking, and inserting a menstrual cup, plus cleaning it.

The difference made: 

Dame designed a self-sanitising menstrual cup, removing the need to boil or sterilise cups. Launched in June 2023, the product has achieved several ISO standards to prove its safety and effectiveness.

Each cup is predicted to contribute 99 times less carbon over its lifetime compared to boiling a traditional cup, according to independent analysis from Climate Partner, and avoids the need for 2,860 disposable period products per person over a lifetime of periods. That latter calculation is based on the assumption there will be 22 disposables per cycle and 13 menstrual cycles per year.

Next, Dame is exploring charity partnerships to see if the cup could be available to those experiencing period poverty, and sharing it’s specially created menstrual cup myth buster user guide content with educators to help more teenagers to try and stick with menstrual cups.

Pip & Henry

Pip & Henry’s research and development project explored extending the life of children’s shoes.

The difference made:

Over the course of a year, Pip & Henry developed three concepts to work towards its vision of an expandable shoe and shoe that can be more cleanly separated into their component materials and therefore more easily recycled.

The business hopes to launch a capsule collection in 2024 and it is exploring licensing concepts to help scale its circular shoe innovations.

The project has provided in-depth knowledge about the environmental impacts of footwear manufacturing methods and material innovations, plus how to design for better end-of-life recycling.

Pip & Henry plans to share its insights with the footwear manufacturing and recycling industries, to help create a sector-wide step change.

Scottish Library and Information Council

Scottish Library and Information Council’s (SLIC) project aimed to create a network of lend and mend hubs across Scotland to support communities to repair, reuse, rent and upcycle everyday items.

The difference made:

Nine hubs have been created, with early indications they have the potential to reach around 2,000 people per year through sewing and mending classes alone.

All libraries are offering equipment, workshops, and tools free of charge to overcome cost barriers for the public, making everyday circular economy actions more accessible.

The hubs are fitted out using repurposed office furniture and upcycled peg boards. SLIC plans to create a toolkit, disseminated through workshops, to share its learnings and help other library services across the UK replicate this circular-thinking approach.

University of Leeds

Currently there is no true circularity in the polyester industry because the dyes in polyester mean it cannot be easily removed which prevents it being recycled back into new virgin polyester fibre. The University of Leeds’s work created new ‘switchable-solubility’ dyes that enable them to be switched from water-soluble to water-insoluble to colour and de-colour polyester.

The difference made:

The research proves the dyes can be both added to, and removed from polyester, enabling the dye, water and fabric to be recycled with huge potential environmental benefits, needing less energy and water use, and removing the need for auxiliary chemicals in the dyeing process.

The University of Leeds also discovered its technology works on other fabrics such as denim and existing dyes in polyester, so the project plans to scale the technology to test at industrial scale and complete a full environmental lifecycle analysis.

The institution will share its discoveries with the textile and recycling sectors, and explore commercialising the technology to maximise its reach and impact.

Marija Rompani, director of ethics & sustainability at JPL, said she hoped the 12-month report reflected “just the beginning of the impact that each of the winning projects will have”.

“The Circular Future Fund allowed us to connect and support leading innovators to enhance their circular business models and drive the shift in circularity within the industry and society,” she added.

Saskia Restorick, director at Hubbub, commented: “This forward-thinking fund, along with the winners’ hard work and dedication has enabled them to find tangible solutions and gain huge amounts of insight and knowledge.”

[Image credit: John Lewis/Hubbub]

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