More than 8 million tons of plastic is deposited in the ocean every year, and efforts to clean up this waste after the fact can only accomplish so much. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has directed its efforts toward prevention with its $2 million New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize.
The prize is divided into two different challenges: the Circular Design Challenge and the Circular Materials Challenge. The winners of both challenges will work together with Think Beyond Plastic to develop and scale their innovations.
The Circular Design Challenge targeted small-format consumer items like straws and coffee lids that aren’t frequently recycled. It also focused on three subjects: rethinking grocery shopping, redesigning sachets and reinventing coffee-to-go. Contestants were challenged to formulate new strategies for reducing how many of these items end up in the environment. The winners were announced last October at the Our Ocean conference in Malta.
The Circular Materials Challenge focused on consumer packaging that is currently difficult to recycle, such as potato chip wrappers or takeout containers. The challenge centered around two goals: making unrecyclable packaging recyclable and combining materials that nature can handle. Contestants proposed alternatives that could produce less waste while still serving the same purpose. The winners were announced on January 23 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize was launched in May 2017 to reward rethinking the way plastics are made, used and reused. The prize is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with HRH The Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit, and it is funded by the Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fund for Strategic Innovation.
Flip through this gallery to view the Circular Design Challenge and the Circular Materials Challenge winners.