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Waste & Recycling May 18, 2017 01:30:47 PM

$2 Million Innovation Challenge To Keep Plastics Out Of Ocean

Paul Ploumis
ScrapMonster Author
The $2 Million Innovation Prize is comprised of two parallel challenges- $1 Million Circular Design Challenge and $1 Million Circular Materials Challenge.
$2 Million Innovation Challenge To Keep Plastics Out Of Ocean

SPOKANE (Scrap Monster): The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) has joined hands with The Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit to launch a new initiative aimed at keeping plastics out of ocean. The $2 Million Innovation Prize calls for innovative ideas to eliminate plastic waste and propose ways to make all plastic packaging recyclable. The Prize is funded by Wendy Schmidt, Lead Philanthropic Partner of the New Plastics Economy Initiative.

The use of plastics has increased nearly twentyfold over the past 50 years to touch 311 million tonnes in 2014. It is expected to double again in the next 20 years and almost quadruple by 2050. Every year, nearly $80-120 billion plastic packaging material value is lost to the economy. Yearly plastics production has jumped several folds over the past 60 years from just over 1.5 million tonnes in 1950’s to 288 million tonnes in 2012.

With reference to an earlier report released by the Foundation, there are high chances of finding more waste plastic in the sea than fish by weight by 2050. Every year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean. Surprisingly, only 14% of plastics packaging is collected for recycling across the globe, despite the growing demand for recycled plastics in the manufacture of virgin materials. Almost 30% of plastic materials escape collection and end up in public places or waterways.

According to EMF, only a fundamental reassessment of the way we make and use plastics could bring about changes to the present scenario. Efforts should be made to keep plastics as valuable materials in the economy. The $2 Million Innovation challenge invites innovators, designers, scientists and entrepreneurs to come up with circular business models to redesign plastics packaging and more efficient approach to optimize the ways by which plastics are handled.

The $2 Million Innovation Prize is comprised of two parallel challenges- $1 Million Circular Design Challenge and $1 Million Circular Materials Challenge.

The $1 Million Circular Design Challenge, partnered by OpenIDEO, invites innovative suggestions to redesign products so that it generates no plastic waste. The challenge focuses on small packaging items such as shampoo sachets, wrappers, straws and coffee cup lids which are never recycled. Recently, Unilever had unveiled a technology named ‘CreaSolv’ that facilitates recycling of high-value polymers from dirty post-consumer sachets. It had also announced opening of a pilot plant in Indonesia to test the long-term viability of the technology.

The $1 Million Circular Materials Challenge is partnered by NineSigma. It aims to make all plastic packaging recyclable. A good percentage of packaging has become hard to recycle on account of multiple layers made out by fusing different materials together. Of late, the UK Recycling Association had named Pringles tubes, Lucozade Sport bottles, cleaning spray bottles, black plastic food trays and whisky packaging as the five most hard-to-recycle products. The Challenge invites participants to put forward alternative materials that could make them easily recyclable or compostable.

The entries to the challenge will be judged against carefully crafted criteria by a panel consisting of eminent personalities from businesses, widely recognized scientists, designers and academics. The first winners of the prize will be awarded later this year.

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