$2m plastic packaging design competition launched

25th May 2017

Transform web

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Manufacturing ,
  • Chemicals ,
  • Electronics ,
  • Engineering and metals


Henry MacLeod

A prize fund worth $2m is up for grabs for individuals and organisations who come up with solutions to ocean plastic pollution.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit (ISU) launched the fund to find ways to prevent plastics entering the ocean.

The competition is part of MacArthur’s New Plastics Economy project, which is trying to discover how to break the ‘take, make, dispose’ nature of the plastics sector. A report by the project found that 32% of plastic packaging ends up polluting the environment.

‘This is a systemic issue. We need to go to the beginning of the pipe, the manufacturing, and build a system that works,’ MacArthur said.

The competition has two main categories:

  • the circular design challenge is looking for ideas on how products can get to people without generating plastic waste. Solutions should focus on small-format packaging, which forms 10% of all plastic packaging, such as shampoo sachets, wrappers, straws and coffee cup lids, which are almost never recycled; and
  • the circular materials challenge, which aims to make all plastic packaging recyclable. Around 13% of packaging, such as crisp packets and food wrappers, is made of layers of different materials fused together, making them hard to recycle. The challenge is seeking innovations on alternative materials that can be recycled or composted.

The businesses involved in scoping the project, which include Coca-Cola, Danone, Mars, PepsiCo and Unilever, will use the winning entries in their packaging, MacArthur said.

Companies working with the project were willing to collaborate and share solutions, she added. ‘We have Coke and Pepsi on board, I think that speaks for itself.’

MacArthur praised Unilever’s recent pledge to make all packaging recyclable by 2025, but said it was important to have all other major companies involved as they all use the same collection systems.

Tony Juniper, special adviser at the ISU, said: ‘Engagement with business is really exciting, and it’s a huge change from just a few years ago when quite a few private sector companies we worked with would say that this is a consumer or regulatory issue, and not really see it as something that can be solved through design and innovation.’

Businesses were beginning to see this now, which was quite a change, he said.

The $2m fund will be split, with smaller grants of $10,000 available to encourage individuals to bring forward ideas. Winners will be able to present their solutions to major businesses, innovators and the public, and will enter a 12-month programme with access to industry experts, commercial guidance and access to labs for testing and development.

The judging panel consists of senior executives from major businesses as well as scientists, designers and academics.

Entries will be assessed against criteria drawn up by the challenge partners, OpenIDEO and NineSigma. Both organisations specialise in finding solutions to global problems through open source networking.

The first winners will be announced later this year. The prizes are funded by philanthropist Wendy Schmidt, president of the Schmidt Family Foundation.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Young people struggling to secure green jobs

Just one in 20 workers aged 27 and under have the skills needed to help drive the net-zero transition, compared with one in eight of the workforce as a whole, new LinkedIn data suggests.

18th June 2024

Read more

Consumers are flexing their purchasing power in support of more sustainable products and services. Dr Andrew Coburn, CEO of sustainability intelligence and analytics firm, Risilience, considers the risk of greenwashing and sets out three key steps businesses can take to avoid the pitfalls and meet the opportunities of changing consumer demand.

18th June 2024

Read more

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

While biodiversity net gain is now making inroads, marine net gain is still in its infancy. Ed Walker explores the balance between enabling development and safeguarding our marine environment

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

Sarah Spencer on the clear case for stronger partnerships between farmers and renewable energy developers

6th June 2024

Read more

Groundbreaking legislation on air and noise pollution and measures to tackle growing concerns over disposable vapes provide the focus for Neil Howe’s environmental legislation update

6th June 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close