Waitrose will use the proceeds from its plastic bag sales to fund plastic-fighting projects
Plan Plastic: The Million Pound Challenge will use cash from plastic bag sales to fund innovative plastic-fighting projects
Waitrose has teamed up with environmental charity Hubbub to launch a £1m fund to support innovative projects tackling plastic pollution.
Plan Plastic: The Million Pound Challenge, which was launched last week, will use the proceeds from Waitrose’s 5p charge for plastic bags to fund projects promoting the reduction, reuse and recycling of plastic.
Waitrose said it was launching the challenge in response to an 800 per cent spike in customer enquiries about plastic since the BBC wildlife show Blue Planet II aired inlate 2017. The show, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, shone a spotlight on the devastating impact plastic pollution is having on marine life around the world.
Each project will be selected by a grant panel, and is set to receive between £150,000 and £300,000 in funding, Waitrose said. The retailer said it will be looking to support schemes which “will have a significant measurable impact on plastic pollution (now or in the future), and a clear legacy”.
“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,” said Tor Harris, head of CSR, health & agriculture for Waitrose & Partners. “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.”
In particular, Waitrose said it is looking for projects which combine plastic recycling with social impact, such as using recycled plastic to manufacture community gym or gardening equipment. It is also looking for campaigns to raise awareness of plastic pollution among children and young people, schemes targeting microplastics, and those focusing on curbing plastic use in the food, agriculture and farming sectors.
In related news, rival retailer Morissons is trialling a price increase for its plastic bags to 15p, and offering a 20p reusable paper bag, according to reports.
Late last year the government announced plans to double the current 5p charge for plastic bags in England, to drive further reductions in plastic bag use.
Morissons stores across England, Wales and Scotland will be taking part in the eight-week trial, according to BBC News.
However, some environmental experts have voiced concerns about the impact of switching from plastic to paper bags. Although paper bags decompose in the environment without causing harm to wildlife, they can require more energy to produce than plastic bags and concerns remain over the impact of increased demand for paper on land use, which could result in a higher carbon footprint.
Morissons’ plan to trial paper bags won a mixed response from plastic campaigners, who pointed out the difference in cost between paper and plastic could put some shoppers off.
“We welcome Morrisons’ decision to trial paper bags for groceries as a result of growing pressure from consumers,” said Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet co-founder. “But why charge more for the paper bags than the plastic bags? We need to really help shoppers make the right choice, and it starts by making it affordable to choose plastic free.”
“So we applaud Morrisons for trialing strong paper bags but implore them to charge less for them,” she added. “The Bag For Life is a plastic myth that we need to wean ourselves off – no-one is going to use it for 500 years. This year we now have a total of 50 countries worldwide who have banned the plastic bag. The UK need to step up and do the same.”