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John Lewis targets plastics use with latest JLAB intake

Lauretta Roberts
03 October 2018

The John Lewis Partnership is aiming to reduce plastic waste with the help of four early-stage businesses who have been selected to join its JLAB retail innovation programme.

Following a pitch day at which eight shortlisted businesses (drawn from 100 applications from new and established companies) presented their propositions to the judging panel, comprising experts from the sustainability and investment sector and senior leaders from across the John Lewis Partnership, four were chosen to move forward.

Out of the four businesses selected, CupClub™an innovative returnable packaging service for drinks that helps retailers reduce single-use plastic packaging by providing trackable products and utilising RFID technology – will now be trialled.

The retailer is also looking into ways it can work with three other businesses which include: Cuantec - which takes natural waste materials to obtain a natural biopolymer and is then turned into compostable, antimicrobial food packaging; RePack - a reusable and returnable e-commerce mail packaging service; and Replenish, which creates reusable and refillable bottles for liquid concentrates.

Benet Northcote, Director of Corporate Responsibility at the John Lewis Partnership and one of the pitch day judges, said: “It was fantastic to see so much energy from a range of businesses innovating to solve the global plastic problem. We’re passionate about creating a sustainable future for the retail sector and that means changing the way we all use and view plastic. The businesses we’ve selected are truly disruptive and will help towards our own ambitious targets.”

This is the first time since JLAB accelerator programme was launched five years ago that plastic waste has been a focus. The initiative builds on the wider sustainability work the John Lewis Partnership is already committed to, with all own-label packaging to be widely recycled, reusable or home compostable by 2025 a key priority.

To date, Waitrose & Partners, which is a signatory of the UK Plastics Pact, has removed 65% of black plastic packaging from fruit and vegetables. Removing black packaging from meat, poultry and fish will also follow suit by the end of the year along with replacing loose fruit and vegetable plastic bags with a home compostable alternative by spring 2019. Waitrose & Partners was the first supermarket to exclusively sell paper-stem cotton buds and has replaced plastic straws with paper versions in all its cafes and is on target to remove all disposable takeaway coffee cups from its shops this autumn, saving 52 million cups a year.

Department store John Lewis & Partners has been working to reduce plastic hanger waste and has recently introduced new, durable carrier bags made from 70% recycled material. Click and collect bags also now contain a minimum of 50 per cent recycled content.

The JLAB plastic waste pitch day follows a successful pitch day held in June which focused on health and wellbeing and three companies were selected to join. JLAB is one of the largest innovation programmes in the UK and earlier this year it was expanded to run all year-round and open to both start-ups and more established businesses.

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