New Plastics Economy logo

Innovation Prize

Calling designers, entrepreneurs, academics and scientists to rethink the plastics system and eliminate plastics packaging waste

Why a plastics rethink?

Love them or hate them, plastics are everywhere around us. In fact, demand for them is expected to double in the next 20 years. Yet our plastics system is broken. Only 14% is recycled, resulting in a loss of USD 80-120 billion per year to the global economy. 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.

So, how do we fix this? If we want to free our ocean from plastics, we have to do more than just cleaning up. 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. To do this, we need better materials, clever product designs and new, circular business models. That’s why we launched the $2m New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize in May 2017.

Innovation Prize winners

The Circular Design Challenge winners were announced at the Our Ocean conference in Malta on October 5, 2017. The winners of the Circular Materials Challenge are being announced at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos on January 23, 2018. Together the winners will join a 12 month accelerator programme, in collaboration with Think Beyond Plastic, working with experts to make their innovations marketable at scale.

  1. Uni Of Pittsburgh Overview 3

    University of Pittsburgh

    Recyclable, flexible and durable packaging created through nano-engineering.

    Circular Materials Challenge winner

  2. Aronax Overview

    Aronax Technologies Spain

    A recyclable, magnetic coating that replaces multi-layered packaging.

    Circular Materials Challenge winner

  3. Bio Plastics Overview

    Full Cycle Bioplastics

    Packaging made from wood and plant waste, which can be fed to bacteria and turned into new plastic again.

    Circular Materials Challenge winner

  4. Vtt Finland Overview

    VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

    Packaging that looks and feels like plastic, but is made from wood.

    Circular Materials Challenge winner

  5. Fraunhofer Overview 2

    Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research

    An organic coating for plastic that makes fresh food packaging compostable.

    Circular Materials Challenge winner

  6. Miwa Tile 2


    Delivering groceries without single-use packaging and cutting household plastic waste.

    Circular Design Challenge winner

  7. Algramo Tile


    Access the right amount of product without the need for non-recyclable single-use sachets.

    Circular Design Challenge winner

  8. Evoware Tile


    Seaweed-based packaging that replaces billions of small bits of plastics with a nutrient boost.

    Circular Design Challenge winner

  9. Delta Tile


    An edible or water soluble sachet solution for restaurants and other hospitality businesses.

    Circular Design Challenge winner

  10. Cup Club Tile


    A returnable cup ecosystem to replace the 100 billion single-use cups and lids used every year.

    Circular Design Challenge winner

  11. Trio Cup Tile Updated


    A one-piece cup that eliminates the need for plastic lids.

    Circular Design Challenge winner

We need everyone to work together to bring these ideas to life

While the winning innovations represent the type of solutions we need to build a plastics system that works, these entrepreneurs cannot drive the transition alone. Businesses, policy makers, and investors too need to make clear commitments and collaborate towards a circular economy for plastics. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is calling on industry to adopt scale up innovation to create a circular economy for plastics that keeps plastics in the economy and out of the environment.

11 leading brands, retailers, and packaging companies are working towards using 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 or earlierAmcor, Ecover, evian, L’Oréal, Mars, M&S, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Walmart and Werner & Mertz – together representing more than 6 million tonnes of plastic packaging per year. This is a major step forward, and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation calls on the whole industry to follow their lead and make commitments that ensure packaging is not just recyclable, but also in practice recycled, reused or composted.

The New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and was launched in collaboration with HRH The Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit. The Prize is funded by Wendy Schmidt, Lead Philanthropic Partner of the New Plastics Economy Initiative.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation logo
International Sustainability Unit
Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fund for STRATEGIC INNOVATION

Challenge partners

Open Ideo