Keep Plastics out of the Ocean

plastic waste on a beach

Why this challenge?

Love them or hate them, plastics are indispensable in our modern world. In fact, demand for them is expected to double in the next 20 years. Yet most plastic items are used only once before being discarded, often ending up polluting the environment. If nothing changes, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

To free our oceans from plastic, we have to fundamentally rethink the way we make, use and re-use plastics so that they don’t become waste in the first place.

The Ellen McArthur Foundation (EMF) was created in 2010 to speed up “the transition to the circular economy”. Among other initiatives, the Circular Materials Challenge to go to a New Plastics Economy sought ways to make all plastic packaging recyclable.

Around 13% of today’s packaging, such as crisp packets, or food wrappers are made of layers of different materials fused together. This multi-layer manufacturing aims at keeping food fresh, but also makes the packaging difficult to recycle.

The Challenge invited innovators to find alternative materials that could be recycled or industrially composted.

The “Circular Materials Challenge” was scoped with EMF and leading brands committed to use 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 or earlier. Among those brands were Amcor, Ecover, evian, L’Oréal, Mars, M&S, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Walmart and Werner & Mertz.


The judging panel consisted of materials experts from international companies in the packaging, food, recycling and materials manufacturing sectors.

  • NineSigma identified 63 Responses from 23 Countries
  • EMF selected 30 proposals that they shared with the judging panel
  • The judging panel ranked the proposals and selected 13 for in depth due diligence
  • The judging panel met in London, reviewed the 13 proposals and selected the 6 best proposals and 5 ‘very good’ proposals

The judging panel found it very difficult to select the winners given the quality of the shortlisted proposals. Some of the panel members found that NineSigma had found solutions that they could “use in their product packaging now”.

In January 2018 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, EMF announced 5 Winners:

  • University of Pittsburgh (USA)
  • Aronax Technologies (Spain)
  • Full Cycle Bioplastics (USA)
  • VTT Technical Research Centre (Finland)
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research (Germany)

Each of them received $200,000 and joined the ‘Accelerator Program’ dedicated to advance their innovation to product launch.

Finally, EMF decided to reward 6 other organizations who have also received mentoring.

Get in touch

NineSigma Europe BV

Koning Leopold I straat 3
B-3000 Leuven

+32 16 24 42 80



    You may also like...