Did you know that most plastic items are used only once before being discarded? With so many of these single-use plastics ending up in waterways, there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050.
To encourage innovators, designers, scientist and entrepreneurs to take on this tricky marine plastic pollution problem, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit have teamed up to launch the $2 million New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize to create packaging that keeps plastics out of the ocean.
MacArthur made history in 2005 when she became the fastest solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe. Upon retiring from professional sailing, she started the Ellen McArthur Foundation with the aim of accelerating the transition from a linear—”make, use, dispose”—to a circular economy where resources are reused as often as possible.
“After 40 years of effort, globally only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, with one third escaping collection and ending up in the environment. If we want to change this, we must fundamentally rethink the way we make and use plastics,” said MacArthur in an interview with CNN.
The prize features two parallel challenges, each with awards of $1 million:
How do we get products to people without generating plastic waste?
The Circular Design Challenge invites applicants to rethink how we can get products to people without without using disposable packaging. It focuses on small-format packaging items (10 percent of all packaging), such as shampoo sachets, wrappers, straws and coffee cup lids. Currently these items are almost never recycled and often end up in the environment.
Ideas at all stages of development are welcome, with awards in three categories: early-stage ideas, with up to ten awards of $10,000 each; mid-stage ideas, with up to three awards of $100,000 each; and advanced ideas, with up to three awards of $200,000 each. Submissions are due by 11 June 2017.
How do we make all plastic packaging recyclable?
The Circular Materials Challenge seeks ways to make all plastic packaging recyclable. About 13 percent of today’s packaging, such as crisp packets and food wrappers, is made of layers of different materials that are fused together. This multi-layer construction provides important functions like keeping food fresh, but also makes the packaging hard to recycle.
The challenge invites applicants to find alternative packaging materials that could be recycled or composted, with up to 5 winners receiving awards of $200,000 each. The submission deadline is 20 October 2017.
Winners in each challenge group will receive exclusive access to a 12-month acceleration programme. New Plastics Economy participant organisations will offer mentoring and support to help advance the innovations recognized by the competition, and demonstrate that these materials are potentially viable alternatives to plastic packaging.