Pioneering projects funded by Waitrose prove their potential in tackling plastic pollution

Thursday 1 April 2021

Plastic eating fungi and innovative technology to prevent fishing nets being lost at sea are among projects proven to have made a real difference in the fight against plastic pollution, nearly two years after being awarded funding from Waitrose.

The progress made by five diverse and groundbreaking projects is in a new report we have published today detailing their positive impact on the environment.

We launched Plan Plastic - The Million Pound Challenge in 2019 to support projects which tackle plastic pollution or rethink how we use and dispose of plastic, with an aim of creating real impact and long-lasting effects. 

The £1 million fund, which originated from the sale of 5p carrier bags, was used to provide grants ranging from £150,000 to £300,000. Environmental charity Hubbub worked with us to support the five chosen projects and to measure the impact of their work.

What’s been achieved?

  • MUSSEL POWER - Plymouth Marine Laboratory demonstrated the potential of mussels to help stem the flow of microplastics from polluted estuaries and coastal water, paving the way for this nature-based solution to be deployed and for further research into nature-based solutions to the problem of microplastics.
  • COMMUNITY BIO-RECYCLING - Onion Collective and Biohm created a bio-recycling facility to carry out research into ‘mycelium’ (the root-structure of mushrooms) to break down and digest plastic. The new bio-recycling facility also created jobs and helped to regenerate an old paper mill in Watchet.
  • ENVIROMENSTRUAL - Wen (Women’s Environmental Network) and City to Sea delivered taboo-busting education to thousands of students, including the training of 724 teachers and nurses to deliver workshops exploring the social and environmental issues of menstruation; while raising awareness about sustainable period products. 
  • SAFEGEAR - Blue Marine Foundation developed a cost-effective beacon for fishermen to stop fishing gear becoming plastic pollution in the marine environment. The Blue Marine Foundation has now trialled over 100 beacons at sea with fishermen in the south west of England which has proven to be a simple-to-use solution to ghost gear. 
  • MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE - Youth Hostels Association eliminated the need for half a million single-use plastic bottles per year by providing publicly accessible water fountains to enable anyone enjoying the outdoors to refill their bottles.This is expected to make a real difference when Covid restrictions can be relaxed. 

Marija Rompani, Partner and Director, Ethics & Sustainability, Waitrose, said: “It is essential we continue to eliminate single-use plastic in our business, but also support progress made by other organisations in the wider world. All these inspirational projects have proven their ability to create real impact in tackling environmental issues and encouraging behaviour change. Action on a larger scale is now needed to make a significant difference in our collective fight against plastic pollution.”

Saskia Restorick, Director at Hubbub, said: “The response to the Waitrose Plan Plastic fund was overwhelming. It is so encouraging to see how many people are trying to make a real difference to reducing plastic pollution in the UK. It has been incredible to watch the five chosen projects develop over the past year and we truly believe the impact they can have is instrumental in tackling plastic pollution. Each project has long-term legacy beyond the grant fund and it has been a privilege to have been a part of the start of that journey. We wish them all the best of luck as they expand their projects further.”

The winners were chosen by an expert panel made up of representatives from academia, industry, non-governmental organisations and business. 150 projects applied for the fund, eight were selected to present to the panel,  five organisations were awarded grants. 

We are committed to reducing and removing unnecessary plastic wherever possible and are on-track to making all our own-label packaging widely recycled, reusable or home compostable by 2023. 

We recently ranked first in Greenpeace’s annual league table, for the second year in a row, which looks at how supermarkets are reducing their use of single-use plastics. We also launched a pioneering refillable range in some of our shops in 2019 with ‘Waitrose Unpacked’ to test demand from consumers for packaging free shopping.


For a full copy of the report, more details about the projects, or for photography and filming opportunities, please contact the Waitrose Press Office.

Waitrose plastic and packaging:

More information about how Waitrose is reducing plastic and packaging can be found here

By 2023, all our own-label packaging will be widely recycled, reusable or home compostable.

We aim to reduce single use plastic by 20% by 2021 - increasing to 50% across our own label by 2025.

By 2025, we aim to increase the proportion of reusable and refillable packaging used across our own label products by 50%.

We also plan to remove the following:

  • PLA (polylactic acid) - small amount will be removed by end 2020
  • PS (polystyrene)- removed by end 2023
  • EPS (expanded polystyrene)- removed in 2019
  • PVC (polyvinyl chloride)- removed by end 2021
  • PVdC (polyvinylidene chloride)- removed by end 2023

About Hubbub

Hubbub is an award-winning charity and social enterprise that inspires ways of living that are good for the environment - disrupting the status quo to raise awareness, nudge behaviours and shape systems. Their aim is to revolutionise communications with the public about environmental issues - using everyday language and good design to make environmental actions desirable and tapping into things people are passionate about such as food, fashion, homes and neighbourhoods. This innovative approach saw Hubbub win the Charity of the Year Award at the prestigious Charity Times Awards in 2020. 

Since its formation in 2014, Hubbub has delivered more than 60 trailblazing environmental campaigns in collaboration with over 700 partners, helping to shift the national debate on key environmental issues such as food waste, sustainable fashion, air pollution and recycling. Hubbub’s campaigns include #LeedsByExample which brought together 25 of the UK’s largest companies to boost recycling on the high street, a 3-year partnership with IKEA to create the world’s largest consumer-facing sustainability campaign ‘Live Lagom’ and creating a Network of 100 Community Fridges across the UK, each redistributing on average 1.5 tonnes of food every month that would otherwise have gone to waste.

Twitter: @hubbubuk     

Facebook: @HubbubUK    

Instagram: @helloHubbub    

LinkedIn: Hubbub-UK    

About the John Lewis Partnership

The John Lewis Partnership owns and operates two of Britain's best-loved retail brands - John Lewis and Waitrose. Started as a radical idea nearly a century ago, the Partnership is the largest employee-owned business in the UK and amongst the largest in the world, with over 78,000 employees who are all Partners in the business. For all intents and purposes, the Partnership is a social enterprise; the profits made are reinvested into the business - for customers and Partners. John Lewis operates 42 shops plus one outlet across the UK as well as Waitrose has 331 shops in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands, including  59 convenience branches, and another 27 shops at Welcome Break locations. The retailer's omnichannel business includes the online grocery service,, as well as specialist online shops including for wine and for plants and flowers.


Waitrose & Partners

Hannah Chance
Partner & Communications Manager, Brand
Tel: 07525 273147

Barley Communications for Hubbub

Katie Raby

Tel: 07896 533547