Fashion and retail industries fund plastic alternatives
Companies including Nike and food packaging giant Imperial Dade will soon begin testing new kinds of thin-film packaging materials which could eventually reduce the vast amount of plastic entering the ocean every year.
Why it matters: Microplastic pollution not only destroys the natural cycle of global environments, it's now been detected in human blood for the first time.
The latest: American designer and filmmaker Tom Ford's Plastic Innovation Prize revealed finalists competing to win $1.2 million.
- In partnership with Lonely Whale, a non-profit aimed at eliminating plastic waste from the world's oceans, Ford and more than a dozen other judges including actor Don Cheadle and Morgan Stanley's chief sustainability officer Audrey Choi, are looking for biologically degradable alternative materials.
- The contest today announced eight finalists — global startups that are producing bags and films using substitutes like seaweed and plant protein.
While many retail companies have been trying to solve the problem on their own, "it's better to come up with solutions that the entire industry can access and integrate into business models," Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and member of the contest's judging panel, told Axios.
The finalists — Genecis, Kelpi, Lwanda Biotech, Marea, Notpla, Sway, Xampla and Zerocircle — will spend the next year testing their materials.
- Nike, which is sponsoring this phase of the contest, will join Imperial Dade, HP, HermanMiller parent MillerKnoll and more than a dozen other brands to test the materials to "ensure immediate replacement of existing non-recyclable polybags," according to the contest.
- Testing will be conducted in Caribbean waters and by labs including the New Materials Institute at the University of Georgia for their biologically degradable quality (such as what would happen if a marine mammal were to ingest), performance, cost, scalability and social impact.
What they're saying: "These materials are likely to dissolve on their own ... without harm. But that's part of what we have to test this year to make sure that those claims can be vetted and [that] we have confidence that we're not creating a new problem and to solve an existing one," Dune Ives, CEO of Lonely Whale, told Axios.
The big picture: The pandemic has only made consumers more aware of their waste and public pressure is pushing industries to find bigger solutions.
What to watch: Winners will be announced next spring.
Go deeper: Low-waste economy hits its groove