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How Waitrose is tackling marine plastic pollution

Plastic in our oceans could outweigh fish by 2050. Photo: SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

Waitrose is funding a number of university fellowships to “boost new thinking” on reducing plastic pollution, the retailer announced.

The Blue Charter Fellowships, run by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), will receive funding from the supermarket for 10 new fellowships to lead “world-class research and innovation” in marine plastics. These fellowships will focus on three priority areas: preventing plastic from getting into the the sea, developing sustainable alternatives to plastic, and cleaning up the seas.

A number of the 520 universities across the Commonwealth, in 50 different countries, will host fellowships. The scheme will also work with industry partners, including Waitrose, to deliver “industry-focused fellowships.”

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Additionally, the funding will support 40 research impact grants, designed to ensure the fellowships lead to real-world impact, with research and information shared widely.

Marine plastics has become a pressing global environmental problem, with figures showing that plastic in our oceans will outweigh fish by 2050 if current trends continue. While work is being done to address the issue, research isn’t always shared globally.

“Tackling plastics is a global issue,” Tom Harris, head of sustainability at Waitrose, said. “That’s why Waitrose & Partners is supporting insight and innovation that will identify sustainable solutions, which will be shared here in the UK and further afield for greater impact.”

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“This funding is testament to the incredible work being carried out by the Blue Charter fellows. These researchers are at the forefront of driving social change around the issue of marine plastics pollution, and these new fellowships will further contribute to the aims of the Commonwealth Blue Charter,” Joanna Newman, ACU chief executive and secretary general, said.

“We’re very grateful to Waitrose & Partners, [the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy], the Commonwealth Secretariat, and all of our partners for ensuring the continued success of this programme.”

Waitrose announced in 2018 that it would give half a million pounds from the 5p carrier bag levy to the Commonwealth Marine Plastics Research and Innovation Framework. The levy funds have also supported the Marine Conservation Society in its beach and river cleans across Britain.

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More recently, Waitrose announced the launch of a £1m fund to give money to projects designed to reduce unnecessary plastic and tackle plastic pollution. Plan Plastic — The Million Pound Challenge will award money to projects that “can demonstrate an impact on plastic pollution now and in the future,” the supermarket said.