$2m prize aimed at keeping plastics out of the ocean

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Photo by Richard Carey/Adobe Stock A new competition is seeking ways to keep plastics packaging out of the environment.

A prominent voice on the issue of ocean plastics is teaming with British royalty and an American philanthropist to offer $2m (€1.8m) in prize money in a competition to make plastic packaging more recyclable.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit and philanthropist Wendy Schmidt are all behind the launch of the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize.

The prize has two components, each with $1m (€890,000) in funding.

The $1 million Circular Design Challenge will focus on small-format packaging with an eye towards eliminating plastic waste, organizers said.

This segment will focus on items that are typically not recycled such as sachets or pouches, wrappers, straws and coffee cup lids. The competition is open to "anyone with a good idea for how to get products to people without using disposable packaging, or for how to design plastic packaging that is easier to recycle," the organizers said.

OpenIDEO, which describes itself as an open innovation platform, is helping with this challenge.

The second part of the prize is the $1m (€890,000) Circular Materials Challenge aimed at making all plastic packaging recyclable. NineSigma, which helps groups with open innovation, is helping with this challenge.

Prize winners enter a year-long accelerator program to help develop their ideas. Judging will involve business leaders, scientists, designers and those in academics.

"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," foundation founder Ellen MacArthur said in a statement. Her foundation leads the New Plastics Economy initiative that's working to boost plastic recycling.

While Prince Charles has lent his name and prestige to the competition, philanthropist Wendy Schmidt is bringing the cash.

"Working towards circularity in the way we make, use, and distribute plastic packaging will revolutionise the scale of the human footprint on our planet, hugely reducing plastic waste and its devastating impact on ocean health," she said in a statement. "The value of keeping materials in the economy is massive compared to the losses we suffer when plastic leaks into the very living systems we depend upon for our survival."

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