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01-29-2018

New Plastics Economy Innovation Prizes

Circular Design and Materials Challenge

The New Plastics Economy is an ambitious, three-year initiative to build momentum towards a plastics system that works. The initiative is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with a broad group of leading companies, cities, philanthropists, policymakers, academics, students, NGOs, and citizens.

In May 2017, the initiative launched the USD 2 million New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize calling designers, entrepreneurs, academics and scientists to rethink the plastics system and eliminate plastics packaging waste. The Circular Design Challenge winners were announced at the Our Ocean conference in Malta on October 5, 2017. The winners of the Circular Materials Challenge were announced at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on January 23, 2018. Together the winners will join a 12 month accelerator programme, in collaboration with Think Beyond Plastic, working with experts to make their innovations marketable at scale.

  • Circular Materials Challenge winner (source: New Plastics Economy)

    Category 1: Make unrecyclable packaging recyclable

    The University of Pittsburgh team applies nano-engineering to create a recyclable material that can replace complex multi-layered packaging that is unrecyclable. This mimics the way nature uses just a few molecular building blocks to create a huge variety of materials. Each layer can be given different properties by changing its nano-scale structure, which when combined, create a much better material that can even be coloured without pigments (source: New Plastics Economy)

  • Circular Materials Challenge winner (source: New Plastics Economy)

    Category 1: Make unrecyclable packaging recyclable

    Aronax Technologies Spain proposes a magnetic additive that can be applied to a material, creating better air and moisture insulation – making it suitable to protect sensitive products such as coffee and medical products, while still being possible to recycle. The additive – small, plate-like particles of silicates and iron oxide – will provide plastics with much better abilities to block gases such as oxygen. The additive can be used in both recyclable and compostable plastics. Two examples of where this material could replace multilayers are toothpaste tubes and food and drink pouches (source: New Plastics Economy)

  • Circular Materials Challenge winner (source: New Plastics Economy)

    Category 2: Combining materials that nature can handle

    Working together, Full Cycle Bioplastics, Elk Packaging, and Associated Labels and Packaging make a compostable high-performance material from renewable materials, agricultural by-products and food waste to pack a broad range of products from granola bars and crisps to laundry detergent. This is the first multi-layer packaging film made using cost-competitive, compostable PHA (a naturally occurring biopolymer) produced from organic waste, together with cellulose-based materials made from plant matter. It will provide an effective alternative to oil-based products, with greatly enhanced after-use options (source: New Plastics Economy)

  • Circular Materials Challenge winner (source: New Plastics Economy)

    Category 2: Combining materials that nature can handle

    The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has created a compostable multi-layer material from agricultural and forestry by-products, which could be used to package products like muesli, nuts, and cheese. The VTT material solution looks like plastic and performs like plastic, but comes from Nature’s own resources. Thanks to its good barrier properties against gases, grease, mineral oils and moisture, VTT’s material is well-suited for many foodpackaging applications (source: New Plastics Economy)

  • Circular Materials Challenge winner (source: New Plastics Economy)

    Category 2: Combining materials that nature can handle

    The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC has developed a coating with silicate and biopolymers that can be used in many different food packaging applications protecting biopolymer packaging and food against premature degradation and is fully compostable. Since the main problem of bio-based plastics is lack of good barriers, Fraunhofer has developed a new class of biodegradable coatings called bioORMOCER, which provide compostable alternatives to non-recyclable, multi-layer packaging (source: New Plastics Economy)

  • Circular Design Challenge winner (source: New Plastics Economy)

    Category 1: Rethinking grocery shopping

    MIWA, from the Czech Republic, introduces an app that lets shoppers order the exact quantities of the groceries they need, which are then delivered in reusable packaging from the producer to their closest store or to their home. Connecting the producer with the consumer MIWA's digital solution eliminates single-use packaging along the product’s value chain. The system can be scaled to work in supermarkets as well as local stores and farmers markets (source: New Plastics Economy)

  • Circular Design Challenge winner (source: New Plastics Economy)

    Category 1: Rethinking grocery shopping

    Algramo, a Chilean social enterprise, offers products in small quantities in reusable containers across a network of 1200 local convenience stores in Chile. Targeting economies where recycling infrastructure is limited and small packaging items such as sachets often end up in the environment, Algamo introduces a reusable packaging system with dispensers and affordable containers (source: New Plastics Economy)

  • Source: New Plastics Economy

    Category 2: Redesigning sachets

    Evoware, an Indonesian startup, designs food wrappings and sachets (containing, for example, instant coffee or flavoring for noodles) made out of a seaweed-based material that can be dissolved and eaten. The company has created an edible alternative to the commonly used multi-layered plastic sachet. It manufactures the material directly from plant matter, making it not only edible but also nutritious. In addition, Evoware has designed a version, made using damar resin from South Asian fig trees, that holds liquids, creating readily compostable packaging for personal care products and medical supplies (source: New Plastics Economy)

  • Circular Design Challenge winner (source: New Plastics Economy)

    Category 2: Redesigning sachets

    Delta, from the United Kingdom, offers a compact technology that allows restaurants to make and serve sauces in edible and compostable sachets. The sachet has a shape that allows easy handling and stacking into secondary packaging, and can have varied thickness and number of layers depending on its purpose. The business model comprises a service solution that puts a machine on clients’ premises. The machine produces the packaging close to the customer, and fills it with what the client wants (source: New Plastics Economy)

  • Circular Design Challenge winner (source: New Plastics Economy)

    Category 3: Reinventing coffee-to-go

    CupClub, based in the United Kingdom, introduces a reusable cup subscription service, in which reusable cups can be dropped off at any participating store. Cup Club combines a set of proven technological solutions (RFID tagging, mobile interface, Internet of Things) to track individual cups and reward their users for being in the system. The business model – to sell the reuse service to multiple stakeholders – means that the system can scale and does not rely on brand loyalty (source: New Plastics Economy)

  • Circular Design Challenge winner (source: New Plastics Economy)

    Category 3: Reinventing coffee-to-go

    TrioCup from the United States offers a disposable paper cup made with an origami-like technique that removes the need for a plastic lid. The team has chosen a 100% compostable material and is working on an alternative that is also 100% recyclable. The folding scheme is quick to do (on a par with attaching a lid to a mug) and offers excellent spill resistance. The mugs stack well, and while space efficiency is a bit lower than with standard cups, this is offset by not needing any lids (source: New Plastics Economy)

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While the winning innovations represent the type of solutions the society needs to build a plastics system that works, these entrepreneurs cannot drive the transition alone. Businesses, policy makers, and investors too need to make clear commitments and collaborate towards a circular economy for plastics. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is calling on industry to adopt scale up innovation to create a circular economy for plastics that keeps plastics in the economy and out of the environment. 11 leading brands, retailers, and packaging companies are working towards using 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 or earlier – among them Amcor , The Coca-Cola Company , and McDonald's – together representing more than 6 million tonnes of plastic packaging per year.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation calls on the whole industry to follow their lead and make commitments that ensure packaging is not just recyclable, but also in practice recycled, reused or composted.

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