24 finalists advance in National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures’ Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge

Farley Fitzgerald
Senior Manager, Marketing and Engagement, National Geographic Society

Teams from 13 countries will compete for a share of $1.5 million in awards and investment

Twenty-four finalists from around the world are moving forward in the Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge, a global search for innovative solutions to help tackle the world’s single-use plastic problem. 

National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures launched the challenge in February 2019, which focuses on three strategic ways to address the growing issue of plastic pollution: identifying opportunities for industries to address plastic waste throughout supply chains, communicating the breadth of the issue through data visualization, and designing alternatives to single-use plastics. 

From an impressive pool of 291 teams that submitted solutions for the challenge, a total of 24 finalists from 13 countries have been selected by a panel of expert judges to move forward into the second phase of the challenge, where they will work to improve their solutions and prepare more robust submission packets for the judges. Each finalist team will be assigned an expert advisor to provide guidance and feedback on their submission. 

The 10 finalists from the Circular Economy track are the following:

  • Algramo from Chile is developing packaging/distribution technology to enable top consumer brands to sell their products for the lowest possible costs in convenient, smart, reusable packaging — currently piloting with Unilever Chile.
  • Hepi Circle from Indonesia delivers products in reusable packaging and collects the empty ones to be cleaned and sterilized through a digital membership program.
  • Infinity Goods from the U.S. is a zero-waste grocery service that sources and delivers goods in reusable packaging then retrieves and reuses that packaging for future deliveries.
  • Kabadiwalla Connect from India demonstrates a technology-enabled, hyperlocal, plastic-waste collection service pilot in Mylapore, Chennai, administered by a local, informal scrap shop.
  • Kecipir from Indonesia is an e-commerce business serving fresh and organic produce from local farmers directly to urban consumers through a fully reusable, circular delivery system — skipping the need for single-use plastic at the source and helping address the problem of food waste.
  • Keko Box from the U.S. is on a mission to eliminate single-use food service containers by providing reusable containers as a service to food businesses to reduce waste, improve sustainability and offer a better customer experience. 
  • Muuse from Singapore allows users to rent reusable coffee cups, bottles and food containers and return them to alternative locations through a mobile deposit system.
  • Returnity from the U.S. produces customized reusable, recyclable shipping and delivery packaging guaranteed for 40 uses that replace cardboard boxes and plastic mailing bags.
  • The Bulk Delivery Truck from the U.S. delivers healthy foods in bulk to underserved communities that bring their own containers to purchase the amount of food they want.
  • Vessel from the U.S. addresses disposables with its library of insulated, stainless steel cups that people check out from vendors for free and return via kiosk. Giving users insight to social and environmental impact metrics associated with its use through Vessel’s IOT technology inspires positive behavior change.

The four finalists from the Data Visualization track are the following:

  • Cataracta from the U.S. is a data-driven, immersive artwork that visualizes the estimated flow of microplastics into the World Ocean from 10 rivers.
  • LSU Remote Plastic Assessment Group from the U.S. uses drones to map plastic debris on Elmer’s Island and other remote beaches in Louisiana.
  • #PerpetualPlastic from a mixed art and science team out of Germany, the U.S. and Indonesia creates physical data sculptures out of flip-flops washed up on Bali’s beaches that represent the paths and fate of all plastics ever produced.
  • “So, how long will it take?,” a collaboration from Israel and the U.S., is an interactive visualization of users’ mismanaged plastic waste as the length they have to walk to reach the ocean. It’s a physical metaphor for how plastic pollution is distancing the ocean from us.

The 10 finalists from the Design track are the following:

  • Astu Eco Container Box from India is a storage solution that is 100% naturally compostable as well as refrigerator, microwave and freezer safe, providing a sustainable alternative for plastic food packaging.
  • Chemolex Ltd from Kenya creates bioplastic food wraps and other product packaging made from the invasive water hyacinth plant, while also cleaning up Lake Victoria.
  • EarthSuds from Canada is eliminating single-use plastic amenity bottles with their shampoo, conditioner and bodywash tablets. When exposed to water, the tablets dissolve and lather like traditional soaps, and they’re distributed in elegant reusable containers. 
  • EcoFLEXY from Denmark is a 100% natural, flexible packaging that is produced from fruit waste, can be safely used to contain food, has a long shelf life, keeps food fresh and is harmless to the environment.
  • Precious Planet from the United Kingdom is a range of plastic-free, 100% compostable packaging for the food industry.
  • Qwarzo from France develops an unprecedented paper technology providing a 100% recyclable, biodegradable and compostable solution to replace fully and cost effectively single-use plastic in numerous applications, like coffee stirrers, cutlery, straws and other packaging.
  • Ranpak’s new WrapPak® Protector from the Netherlands uses multilayered, waved and stitched paper to provide insulation for shipping temperature-controlled products, such as groceries, meat, meals and other food ingredients.
  • Reboo from Denmark is reusable food and beverage packaging made out of biodegradable and durable bamboo fiber, eliminating the need for disposable packaging in the food sector. 
  • Savor from the U.S. designs and develops edible cutlery, beginning with edible spoons, to combat single-use plastic pollution. 
  • Turning Threats into Opportunities (TTO) from Kenya uses crushed hyacinth, recycled paper and wood glue to create a range of solutions to replace some single-use plastic products, like plates, cups, shopping bags and wrappers. 

Winners will be announced in December 2019 after the teams pitch their solution in person to the judges at National Geographic headquarters. The finalists and winners from each track will be entitled to a share of the $500,000 prize purse with select finalists entitled to a portion of $1 million in investments from Sky Ocean Ventures. 

The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge is a key component of National Geographic’s “Planet or Plastic?” initiative, a global effort to significantly reduce the amount of single-use plastic that reaches the ocean by raising awareness, elevating science and education, advancing innovation, and inspiring action.

Sky Ocean Ventures was launched in March 2018 with a £25 million cornerstone commitment from Sky and the objective of seeking out investment opportunities in start-up innovation businesses that can help solve the ocean plastic waste crisis.

Meet the finalists and learn more about their solutions to address plastic pollution at oceanplastic-challenge.org

About Sky

With 24 million customers across seven countries, Sky is Europe’s leading media and entertainment company and is proud to be part of the Comcast group. Our 31,000 employees help connect our customers with the very best of Sports, News, the arts and to our own local, original content. Following the success of Sky originals like Chernobyl, Patrick Melrose, Das Boot and Gommorah we launched Sky Studios and now plan to more than double our investment in original drama and comedy over the next five years.

Our technology allows customers to watch what they want, when they want, how they want, and as we connect millions of families to content they love, it is our responsibility to do it safely – that’s why we offer services like Sky Broadband Buddy and the Sky Kids app. And our online streaming service, NOW TV, brings viewers all the enjoyment of Sky with the flexibility of a contract-free service.

We also believe that a company of our scale has a responsibility that goes beyond our business, and into the community. Our Sky Ocean Rescue campaign has reached millions across Europe, we’re on track to be free of single-use plastic by 2020, we’re investing £25million over five years in ocean-saving tech and we’re a proud employer – recognised by The Times and Stonewall for our approach to inclusivity.

About the National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate the wonder of the world, define critical challenges and catalyze action to protect our planet. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature convenings and content. To learn more, visit www.nationalgeographic.org or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. 

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