From food wrappers to shampoo bottles, plastics are all around us, and the demand for them is expected to double in the next 20 years. But, today’s ‘take-make-dispose’ plastics system is broken. Most plastic items are used only once before being discarded, often polluting our environment. In fact, if nothing changes, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

Innovators, scientists and entrepreneurs around the world are being called upon to help fundamentally rethink the way we use plastics so they don’t become waste in the first place. Today, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in partnership with leading global innovation firm NineSigma, announced the launch of the Circular Materials Challenge to make all plastic packaging recyclable. Solution providers are competing for up to $1 million in grants to be shared equally by up to five winners. Winners of the challenge will also have access to The New Plastics Economy Innovation Accelerator, a 12-month program offering exclusive connections with industry experts, commercial guidance, feedback on user and scalability requirements, advice on performance expectations, and entry to innovation labs for testing and development.

The Circular Materials Challenge is part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s $2 million New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, launched in collaboration with The Prince of Wales's International Sustainability Unit, to help build a circular economy for plastics by developing new materials, redesigning packaging, and eliminating waste. The prize is funded by Wendy Schmidt, Lead Philanthropic Partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative. The challenge has been scoped in close coordination with the initiative’s more than 40 participants, including Core Partners Amcor, The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, MARS, Novamont, PepsiCo, Unilever, and Veolia.

“If we want to effect broad systems change, we need to rethink the way we make plastic items,” said Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “That’s why we are calling for scientific and technical experts from around the globe to help us keep these materials in the economy, and out of the ocean.”

About 13 percent of today’s packaging is made of layers of different materials fused together. This multi-layer construction meets important needs like keeping food fresh, but also makes the packaging hard to recycle. The challenge, therefore, invites innovators to find alternative materials that can be recycled or composted.

The judging panel for the challenge consists of senior executives from major businesses, widely recognized scientists, designers and academics. Solutions will be assessed against a broad range of criteria carefully crafted in collaboration with the challenge partners and participants of the New Plastics Economy initiative.   

“The collective expertise, technologies and support of our business and innovation community is critical to forging this kind of change,” said NineSigma CEO Dr. Andy Zynga. “We are thrilled to help the Ellen MacArthur Foundation reach experts that can contribute upstream solutions that will redefine the future of plastics in support of a circular economy.”

Responses to the Circular Materials Challenge are due by October 20, 2017 at 5:00 PM US EDT.  Solution providers can submit proposals through NineSigma’s Open Innovation community NineSights.com. For more information and updates on the challenge, please visit https://ninesights.ninesigma.com/web/circular-materials.

                     

About the New Plastics Economy initiative
The New Plastics Economy is an ambitious, 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.

The initiative is supported by Wendy Schmidt as Lead Philanthropic Partner, and MAVA Foundation, Oak Foundation, and players of People’s Postcode Lottery (GB) as Philanthropic Funders. Amcor, The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, MARS, Novamont, PepsiCo, Unilever, and Veolia are the initiative’s Core Partners.

 

About the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was created in 2010 to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. The Foundation works across five areas: insight and analysis, business and government, education and training, systemic initiatives, and communication. With its Knowledge Partners (Arup, IDEO, McKinsey & Co., and SYSTEMIQ), and supported by Core Philanthropic Funder (SUN), the Foundation works to quantify the economic opportunity of a circular model and to develop approaches for capturing its value. The Foundation collaborates with its Global Partners (Danone, Google, H&M, Intesa Sanpaolo, NIKE, Inc., Philips, Renault, Unilever), and its CE100 network (businesses, universities, emerging innovators, governments, cities and affiliate organisations), to build capacity, explore collaboration opportunities and to develop circular business initiatives. By establishing platforms such as the New Plastics Economy initiative, the Foundation works to transform key material flows, applying a global, cross-sectoral, cross value chain approach that aims to effect systems change. Learn more at www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org.


About NineSigma
NineSigma helps organizations in the public, private and nonprofit sectors find new solutions, knowledge and partners to accelerate innovation. The leader in creating ‘unexpected connections’, NineSigma has the largest open global network of solvers and an extensive database of existing solutions spanning numerous industries and technical disciplines. The company helps for-profit and nonprofit organizations address problems of a global magnitude through its Grand Challenge innovation programs. Learn more at www.ninesigma.com.

 

International Sustainability Unit
The Prince of Wales's International Sustainability Unit (ISU) was formed in 2010 to address critical challenges to development and the environment. The ISU builds on the success of The Prince’s Rainforests Project, established to help find a solution to tropical deforestation. With an international reputation for neutral convening, underpinned by rigorous analysis, the ISU engages key actors from Governments, the private sector, research communities and civil society to catalyze positive change across the global sustainability agenda.  

The ISU's Marine Program focuses on the global transition to a sustainable Blue Economy. The core components of this work include fish stock recovery, coral reef health and marine plastic pollution. During the last six years the ISU has brought together stakeholders from all sectors to accelerate solutions to some of the most pressing ocean-related challenges and build consensus on solutions for and a pathway towards a sustainable Blue Economy. www.pcfisu.org

 

Wendy Schmidt
Wendy Schmidt is President of The Schmidt Family Foundation, where she works to advance the development of renewable energy and the wiser use of natural resources. The Foundation houses its grant-making operation in The 11th Hour Project, which supports more than 150 non-profit organizations around the world in program areas including renewable energy, ecological agriculture, human rights, and our maritime connection through it 11th Hour Racing program. In 2009, Wendy Schmidt and her husband, Eric Schmidt, created the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI), and in 2012 launched the research vessel, Falkor, as a mobile platform to advance ocean exploration, discovery, and knowledge, and catalyze the sharing of information about the oceans. Since 2012, Falkor has hosted more than 500 scientists from 27 countries.


To further her commitment to ocean issues, in 2010 Wendy Schmidt partnered with XPRIZE, following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, to sponsor the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup XCHALLENGE, a $1.4 million competition designed to identify efficient and innovative solutions to clean up surface oil spills.  Wendy Schmidt once again partnered with XPRIZE in 2012 to design the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE, a $2 million purse, awarded in July, 2015, where competitors responded to the global need for accurate and available sensors to more broadly measure the signs of ocean acidification, one of the harbingers of climate change.

 

Press Contact
Caroline Legg, Warner Communications, caroline@warnerpr.com, 978-255-4488

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