$1-Million Circular Materials Challenge Aims to Reduce Plastics Pollution

Global innovators, scientists and entrepreneurs are invited to submit new materials solutions to Ellen MacArthur Foundation and NineSigma.

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On May 18, 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 that offers 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. (Read more about The New Plastics Economy report released by The Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation and World Economic Forum earlier this year).

The newly-launched challenge is part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s $2-million New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, which was launched in cooperation with The Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit. It’s goal is 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 Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative. The challenge has been scoped in close coordination with the initiative’s more than 40 participants. They include 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 the Foundation’s founder Dame Ellen MacArthur.

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

The challenge’s judging panel is comprised of senior executives from major businesses, widely recognized scientists, designers and academics. A broad range of criteria carefully crafted in collaboration with the challenge partners and participants of the New Plastics Economy initiative will be used to assess the submitted solutions. “The collective expertise, technologies and support of our business and innovation community is critical to forging this kind of change….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,” said NineSigman CEO Dr. Andy Zynga.

Responses to the Circular Materials Challenge are due by October 20, 2017 at 5:00 PM U.S. EDT. Solution providers can submit proposals through NineSigma’s Open Innovation community NineSights.com