by Katherine Martinko

Last November, a department store chain in the United Kingdom called John Lewis announced a £1-million (US$1.2m) fund to back innovative projects that could fight “throwaway” culture. Together with environmental organization Hubbub, it gave businesses, charities, social enterprises, and academic bodies two months to submit their ideas to this new Circular Future Fund and be selected by an expert grant panel.

Four winners were announced in April, out of 245 applicants, and they’re as impressive as you’d imagine. They will get one year of financial support (until May 2023) to develop and implement their ideas—and hopefully play a significant role in reducing the amount of waste that’s created in our current disposable shopping culture. Here’s a brief overview of each winner.


Dame is a period product company that strives to make menstrual cups mainstream. These are such a simple and effective solution to reducing plastic waste and improving the overall menstrual experience that it’s unfortunate only 5% of the British population uses them. Meanwhile, 4.5 million period products are thrown away daily in the U.K., and the average disposable pad contains 90% plastic.

Pip & Henry

This shoe company wants to tackle the problem of footwear waste by designing and building expandable and deconstructable shoes for children. Kids’ shoes get replaced every four months, on average, with 85% of these outgrown shoes going to landfill, even before they’re worn out.

Pip & Henry’s founder Jeroo Doodhmal has proposed a design that grows with the child, thanks to a modular sole that can have expansions added to it, and an elasticated or foldable upper. Allowing a shoe to grow by three half-sizes could double its lifespan and save parents a lot of money.

Scottish Library & Information Council (SLIC)

Everyone is familiar with the idea of a library for books, but an innovative group from Scotland wants to extend this concept to household goods and clothing. It has proposed adding ten “circular economy community spaces” to existing libraries to encourage people to repair and borrow, instead of throwing away and buying new.

Using its grant, SLIC will provide free community access to sewing machines, soldering irons, and 3D printers. It will expand lending collections to include tools, tools, and kitchen equipment. It will also strive to “create an evidence body of the role of libraries in the circular economy and share widely among networks.”

University of Leeds

Polyester is the most widely used textile in clothes, but only 15% contains recycled material. This is due to the fact that previously-dyed polyester is difficult to recycle. Researchers at the University of Leeds have created a prototype that manages to separate polyester from its dye using CO2. If scalable, this could revolutionize the fashion industry. It would allow dye to be reused, save water, use less energy, and remove harmful auxiliary chemicals.

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