Bradford’s Green Street has secured funding to trial a returnable cups and food packaging scheme in the city, working in partnership with local cafes and restaurants.

One of the UK’s leading champions of sustainable retailing, Green Street was awarded a six-figure grant from the £1.4m Bring It Back Fund set up by environmental charity Hubbub and Starbucks. The Fund was created to trial innovative solutions across the UK to reduce single-use food and beverage packaging. Green Street was one of only six schemes nationally to be granted funding.

The Bring It Back Fund judging panel, made up of leading retail and sustainability experts, was impressed by the Green Street proposal which outlined an innovative “borrowing” cup and food box system that links customers to a digital rewards scheme devised by Maybe*, an innovative technology company.

Existing Green Street partners Bread + Roses vegetarian café and My Lahore restaurant chain, among others, will be the first to introduce the returnable cup and food box scheme to their customers.

Bread + Roses will undertake the returnable cup element whilst My Lahore will trial a returnable take-away box – potentially saving the need for thousands of disposable items every week, as well as offering a cost saving to the business itself. The pilot will be live with other Green Street city centre cafes between January and September next year. It is hoped numbers will increase to 15 during the trial with an opportunity for new Green Street members to join.

Victoria Robertshaw, founder of Green Street, said: “We are delighted that Green Street has been chosen by the Bring it Back judges to receive a substantial grant in the face of some really innovative competition. Through the trial we want to be able to demonstrate and develop a scalable solution that will, hopefully, grow to become a fully-fledged cup and food box borrowing scheme aimed at Bradford’s independent food and drink sector. As Bradford is Britain’s curry capital, this scheme could slash the enormous waste associated with any takeaway business and be truly game-changing for the city – and beyond.”

Gavin Ellis, director and co-founder of Hubbub added: “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 entry from Green Street, and we are looking forward to working with them 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. Green Street’s pilot is a practical and engaging solution, working with local businesses to introduce a returnable packaging system in Bradford and trialling reward incentives. With this project, we will be able to learn from a city-focused trial 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 are really proud that Green Street will receive funding for such important reuse initiatives, and we look forward to seeing how their trial progresses. 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.”

The long-term goal of the pilot will be to roll out across Bradford and eventually to other cities across the UK. As Bradford is the UK City of Culture 2025 and likely to welcome hundreds of thousands of additional visitors to the district that year, a successful expansion of the scheme could see this influx of visitors potentially borrowing a cup or food box during their stay which will also help spread the message beyond Bradford’s borders.

Each pilot project across the UK will tackle a different way to test and learn how to shift people’s habits to use alternatives to single-use packaging.