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Managing Editor  | May 2017

MacArthur Foundation announces $2 million prize for stopping ocean plastic

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which has been a vocal advocate for the need to rid the ocean of plastics, has partnered with the Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit and American philanthropist Wendy Schmidt to create the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize to offer as much as $2 million in funding.



The MacArthur Foundation is offering $2 million to stop plastics pollution.
(Wikimedia Commons)


The prize will seek innovators, designers, scientists, and entrepreneurs who can come up with a packaging solution to keep plastics out of the oceans.


There are two components to this prize, each with a potential for $1 million in funding.


The Circular Design Challenge focuses on small-format packaging items, which rarely get recycled and frequently find their way into the environment. Among the items noted in the press release were shampoo sachets, wrappers, straws, and coffee cup lids.


The Circular Materials Challenge pushes innovators to find a way to make all plastics packaging recyclable because most plastics today are created from multiple materials that have been fused, which makes recycling even more difficult.


The press release continued, “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.”


In his comments at the launch of the Macarthur Foundation prize, Prince Charles highlighted the consequences of plastic pollution.


According to an article in The Daily Mail, Prince Charles said, “I don’t want to dwell on the devastation this is causing (plenty of others are able to do this far more effectively than I can!) but as scientific consensus deepens on the impact of plastic waste on biodiversity, on the food chain, and, dare I say it, on human health, it becomes ever more urgent that we find ways to deal with this escalating ecological and human disaster.”


According to The Telegraph, Prince Charles added, “I can only salute those who dedicate themselves to cleaning up the mess we have already made as this is a critical endeavor in mitigating current damage to ocean ecosystems. But unless we can switch off the tap of new waste flooding in, then, on its own, no extent of clean-up can provide a sustainable solution.”


The MacArthur Foundation has released stats that indicate at the current rate (eight million tons per year) there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. In addition, the foundation said in its statement that only 14 percent of the world’s plastic is being recycled with the remainder going to waste.


To learn more about the prize or to take part, visit https://newplasticseconomy.org/innovation-prize

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