The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with the support of Wendy Schmidt, lead philanthropic partner of the foundation’s New Plastics Economy Initiative, has awarded $1 million to five recyclable and compostable packaging solutions designed to reduce or eliminate the amount of plastic ending up in oceans. The awards were made during the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
According to the foundation, more than 8 million metric tons of plastic enter oceans each year. However, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation says the three biggest cleanup efforts address just 0.5 percent of that volume.
To help resolve the problem, in May 2017 the Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched its $2 million New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, which has been funded by Schmidt and operated by challenge partner Cleveland-based NineSigma.
The initiative targets lightweight, flexible packaging that is either too difficult or expensive to recycle. Each winner will receive a $200,000 share of the $1 million prize:
- The Univesity of Pittsburgh is applying nanoengineering to create a recyclable material that can replace unrecyclable complex multilayered packaging.
- Aronax Technologies Spain is proposing a magnetic additive that can be applied to material to create better air and moisture insulation to protect sensitive products, such as coffee and medical products, while still being recyclable.
- Full Cycle Bioplastics, Richmond, California; Elk Packaging, Los Angeles; and Associated Labels and Packaging, British Columbia, are developing compostable high-performance packaging from renewable materials, agricultural byproducts and food waste for a broad range of products.
- VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has created a compostable multilayer material from agricultural and forestry byproducts that could be used for standup food pouches.
- The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC, Germany, has developed a compostable coating with silicate and biopolymers that can be used in food packaging applications to protect against premature degradation.
Akihiko Suwa, CEO of NineSigma, says, “Disruptive innovation starts with selection of the world’s best ideas and technologies. It becomes reality only when there is sufficient additional development support.
He adds, “We are excited to be involved in the New Plastics Economy initiative because the innovators enter a 12-month acceleration program to demonstrate their materials are viable alternatives to non-recyclable packaging.”