John Lewis to trial returnable packaging service

John Lewis
The business leaders invited to pitch new ideas to help the John Lewis Partnership improve its plastic performance

The John Lewis Partnership has selected four businesses to help reduce its plastic waste. The four companies were selected following a competitive pitch day for JLAB, the retail giant’s innovation programme. 

The retailer hopes the new solutions will help it cut plastic waste by reusing and reducing food, liquid and postal packaging. 


JLAB provides access to expert advice from the John Lewis Partnership, customer panels and data, a chance to launch trials and pilots and possible financial investment. 

More than 100 businesses, ranging from start-ups to established organisations, submitted ideas that could help John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners reduce the impact of plastic waste. Ten were selected to pitch to the eight JLAB judges with ideas covering alternative packaging, chemical recycling, sustainable materials and plastic-free products. 

Out of the four businesses selected, CupClub™, an innovative returnable packaging service for drinks, was selected to be trialled in store. The CupClub model is said to help retailers reduce single-use plastic packaging by providing trackable products and utilising RFID technology. 

The retailer will also explore opportunities with three other businesses: 

  • 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 
  • 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.” 

Launched five years ago, this latest programme is the first time that JLAB has focused on plastic waste.  


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