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05-23-2017

Two Million USD Innovation Prize to Help Keep Oceans Clean

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, together with The Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit, have announced the launch of the USD 2 million New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize. The Prize which is funded by Wendy Schmidt as Lead Philanthropic Partner of the New Plastics Economy Initiative, calls for innovators, designers, scientist and entrepreneurs to help create packaging that keeps plastics out of the ocean.

“After 40 years of effort, globally only 14% 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. We need better materials, clever product designs and circular business models. That’s why we are launching the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, calling for innovators, designers, scientists and entrepreneurs to help create a plastics system that works,” comments Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

To achieve the goal of eliminating plastic packaging waste, the Prize is composed of two parallel challenges:

  • The USD 1 million Circular Design Challenge which invites applicants to rethink how we can get products to people without generating plastic waste. The Challenge will focus on small-format packaging items (10% of all packaging) such as shampoo sachets, wrappers, straws and coffee cup lids, which are currently almost never recycled and often end up in the environment. Anyone with a good idea for how to get products to people without using disposable packaging can enter this Challenge partnered by OpenIDEO.
  • The USD 1 million Circular Materials Challenge seeks ways to make all plastic packaging recyclable. About 13% of today’s packaging, such as crisp packets and food wrappers, is made of layers of different materials fused together. This multi-layer construction provides important functions like keeping food fresh, but also makes the packaging hard to recycle. The Challenge therefore invites innovators to find alternative materials that could be recycled or composted. The Challenge partner is NineSigma.

Innovators who apply to the Prize are competing for up to $2,000,000 in grants and visibility of their solutions to major businesses, the innovator community and the public. Winners will enter a 12-month accelerator programme offering exclusive access to industry experts, commercial guidance, feedback on user and scalability requirements, advice on performance expectations, and access to innovation labs for testing and development. The first winners will be announced later this year.

The New Plastics Economy is a three-year initiative to build momentum towards a plastics system that works. Applying the principles of the circular economy, it brings together key stakeholders to rethink and redesign the future of plastics, starting with packaging. 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.

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