Hubbub and Starbucks® unveil winners of over £1m fund to trial solutions to reduce single-use food and beverage packaging

  • From all-female tech start-ups to environmental charities, the Bring It Back Fund awards over £1m in grants to six innovative projects to boost reuse  
  • Innovative reuse trials across the UK include city-wide returnable takeaway packaging, electronic tagging of reusable alternatives and doorstep packaging collection

Today, environmental charity Hubbub and Starbucks announce the winners of the Bring It Back Fund, created to fund innovative new solutions and systems for sustainable packaging in the food and beverage industry.

Following a competitive application process which launched in May, the Bring It Back Fund has increased to £1.4 million to ensure six innovative reuse solutions can be piloted across the UK with the first project launching in the next few months.

Each pilot project will tackle a different way to test and learn how to shift people’s habits to use alternatives to single-use packaging through behaviour-change incentives, research projects, new technology, the expansion of existing successful reuse systems, or developing entirely new service models.

The six pilots include removing single-use packaging from a street food market in London, the first of its kind in the UK; trialling behaviour change initiatives within diverse communities in Peterborough, such as a loyalty programme, and trialling a coffee cup reuse system with tourists for the first time in one of the most beautiful rural areas of Scotland.

The full list of UK winners is:

Keep Scotland Beautiful– This environmental charity will pilot a large-scale reusable cup deposit scheme for the first time in Scotland, trialing a reuse system in the remote, rural setting of the Highlands, in collaboration with NorthCoast 500, Zero Waste Scotland, and Highland Good Food Partnership.

Green Street– This returnable coffee cup and food packaging system in Bradford will work with local cafes and restaurants, including lead partners Bread + Roses and My Lahore, and the system will trial reward incentives with digital rewards platform Maybe*

Reath TechnologyThe female-founded tech solution company based in Edinburgh will be building upon their existing reuse and RFID technology to create ‘next generation’ reuse tracking software, as well as a customisable footprint calculator, to help demonstrate how reuse performs well commercially and environmentally.

Again– The company operates a network of proprietary packaging cleaning facilities (they call ‘CleanCells’). In partnership with meal delivery platforms, restaurant chains and independent delivery kitchen operator Karma Kitchen, they will test how localised doorstep at-home collection of reusable packaging can increase the uptake of reuse systems and improve convenience. The trial will take place in central London.

junee– This reuse-as-a-service startup is partnering with food market Mercato Metropolitano in South London to test how to eliminate single-use food packaging at the market by making reuse the default option for customers, price competitive for traders, and operationally simple for all parties by connecting logistics and washing support.

PECTThis local environmental charity will researchperceptions and barriers around reusable packaging, running behaviour change trials within local communities and specific groups in Peterborough to increase reuse. This will be done in partnership with RECOUP, a charity and leading authority providing expertise and guidance across the plastics recycling value chain.

Gavin Ellis, Director and Co-founder of Hubbub said: With the Bring It Back Fund, we set out to find innovators with pioneering new approaches to challenge single-use packaging in the food and drink sector. We were highly impressed with the quality of the entries received and we are looking forward to working with the winners to tackle this major environmental problem.

“The winning projects offer a strong mix of innovative solutions, from brand new reuse system trials to behaviour change research and funding developments in technology. With this funding, we will be able to test and learn from real-world trials and hopefully demonstrate that reuse systems are safe and easy to use, and can benefit the food and drink industry, consumers and the environment.”

Alex Rayner, General Manager at Starbucks UK, comments: “We’ve introduced an array of different reusable activations over the years to test and trial new ways to encourage reuse. Our latest work with Hubbub, the Bring It Back Fund, builds on our reusables work, aiming to find new ways to inspire people and our customers to choose to reuse. It is important for us as a company that we continue to drive industry-wide innovation, as we work to increase reusability and inspire greater reusables uptake in local communities across the UK. This forms part of our long-term goal to reduce waste and become a resource positive company.”

Amongst the experts on the judging panel, Garance Boullenger, Project Manager, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “To solve plastics pollution, there needs to be an increase in investment towards redesigning products and eliminating waste from the beginning. It’s great to see the growth in funding of impactful innovations in the reuse space, and we look forward to seeing how the learnings from the implementation of these projects can accelerate the transition to a circular economy for plastics.” 

Dr Garrath Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Experience Design at Loughborough University, said: “With the Bring it Back Fund there is a genuine sense of the coming together of community within each project. Although the scale and the localised approaches to applying Circular Economy principles for reuse might differ, each project has a clear sense of whom the change is for and why now is the time to act. It is rewarding to have been a part of a process that recognises the value of this and gives vital opportunity where other funding mechanisms may not.”

Development of the Bring It Back Fund was informed by Starbucks and Hubbub’s ongoing initiatives to drive the uptake of reuse, including the Cup, Cup and Away campaign at Gatwick Airport, with further insights from a recent polling1 of UK adults to identify some of the most common barriers to reuse. The research showed there is a clear appetite from the public to cut down on single-use plastics, with 41% of people more worried about how much single-use plastic is used in society since the pandemic started and 67% saying they want to reduce the amount of single-use packaging they use when buying food and drink products.

The fund is supported by Starbucks pioneering 5p cup charge which is applied when a customer chooses to use a single-use paper cup. Introduced voluntarily in 2018, Starbucks has donated all funds to Hubbub to support sustainability efforts and waste reduction.