Plastic-eating fungus among winners of Waitrose’s £1m pollution fund

A facility that uses fungus to break down plastic and a project that uses mussels to filter microplastics in the sea are some of the winners of Waitrose’s £1m fund to tackle plastic pollution.

The £1m fund was raised from the sale of 5p carrier bags and will be split between the five winners who will receive funding between £150,000 and £300,000.

The supermarket worked with environmental charity Hubbub for the competition which attracted 150 applications, with the winners chosen by expert panel made up of representatives from academia, industry, non-governmental organisations and business.

The five winners are below:

Blue Marine Foundation: SAFEGEAR (Plymouth, Devon)

An initiative that aims to stop ghost fishing gear (fishing nets that have been left or lost in the ocean) at source by attaching beacons to buoys to make fishing gear visible. SAFEGEAR allows fishing vessels to inexpensively monitor their gear at sea, receive alerts if their gear starts to move, and contact vessels in the proximity.

If gear is lost due to towing, or bad weather, the beacon allows the fishing vessel to track the gear and recover it.

Onion Collective CIC and Biohm: Community Bio-Recycling (Watchet, Somerset)

A new plastic biorecycling facility in Somerset, that will use mycelium (a vegetative part of a fungus or fungus-like bacteria)  to break down synthetic plastic waste and turn it into new products – for environmental, social and economic benefit.

This process will entirely eliminate petrochemical plastic while demonstrating a new way of doing business.

Women’s Environmental Network (WEN): Environmenstrual Plastic Free Periods  (UK wide)

The environmenstrual campaign ‘Plastic-Free Periods’ aims to bring about a UK revolution in education about health-conscious, environmentally-friendly menstrual products.

This is a collaborative project between Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) and City to Sea aiming to bring about widespread behaviour change that reduces plastic pollution from period products.

Plymouth Marine Laboratory: Mussel Power (Plymouth, Devon)

An initiative that aims to develop an ecological solution to microplastic pollution whereby beds or rafts of mussels are deployed in estuaries and coastal sites to filter out microplastics from the water.

The project will help determine whether these ‘bioreefs’ will work in the fight against plastic waste.

YHA (England & Wales): Message in a Bottle (England and Wales wide)

A project that will see water bottle refill stations installed in 60 major youth hostels across England and Wales, eradicating the use of single-use plastic bottles from packed lunches, cafes, bars and vending machines.

Tor Harris, Head of CSR, Health & Agriculture, Waitrose & Partners, said: ‘It’s important for us to tackle unnecessary plastic both in our shops but also in the wider world.

‘All these inspirational projects have the ability to create real impact in tackling environmental issues and encouraging behaviour change so we can collectively achieve our goal of reducing plastic pollution.’

Photo credit – Waitrose


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