By 2050 the oceans could be filled with more plastics than fish if drastic action isn’t taken now, according to one report.

The shocking prediction was revealed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in: The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics. The circular economy organisation exists to highlight these types of issues but it also plays a central role in pioneering solutions to the problems.

In a bid to keep plastics out of the ocean, it is partnering with The Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit to launch a $2 million innovation competition to find innovators who can develop products that are designed – or are made – with materials that are more easily recyclable. This well help support the Foundation’s target to recycle and reuse 70% of all global plastic packaging by 2050, it stands at just 14% today.

“After 40 years of effort, globally only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, with one third escaping collection and ending up in the environment. If we want to change this, we must fundamentally rethink the way we make and use plastics. We need better materials, clever product designs and circular business models. That’s why we are launching the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, calling for innovators, designers, scientists and entrepreneurs to help create a plastics system that works,” explains Dame Ellen MacArthur, the Foundation’s founder.

The competition is split in to two $1 million challenges. The Circular Design Challenge, supported by OpenIDEO; and the $1 million Circular Materials Challenge, backed by NineSigma. Funding is being provided by Wendy Schmidt, president of The Schmidt Family Foundation.

She said: “Working towards circularity in the way we make, use, and distribute plastic packaging will revolutionize the scale of the human footprint on our planet, hugely reducing plastic waste and its devastating impact on ocean health. The value of keeping materials in the economy is massive compared to the losses we suffer when plastic leaks into the very living systems we depend upon for our survival. The New Plastics Economy Prize is a call for creative design and technical innovation at a critical time.”

Today’s launch event will include a video message from former U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, in which he will say: “Focusing on ocean health, focusing on an initiative to save the oceans, could not be more timely, and it could not be more critical.”

Meanwhile, to raise awareness of the problem of plastics in the ocean, environmentalist Lizzie Carr is this morning attempting to become the first female to cross the English Channel on a stand up paddle board (SUP). Check out how she is doing via this live tracker.

 

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