The Prize

TOM FORD and 52HZ are offering $1.2 Million to the innovators who create the best replacement for thin-film plastic; one that can be used in everything from polybags (the fashion industry’s packaging of choice) to single-use, resealable sandwich and storage bags.

The Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize is a two-year competition, followed by three years of support for competition finalists, designed to incentivize the development and adoption of these alternatives to thin-film plastic. 

The prize will catalyze the use of scalable, biologically degradable thin-film plastic alternatives through an open innovation process, rigorous scientific and technical analysis, and in-depth partnership and facilitation activities. 

THE PROBLEM WITH
THIN-FILM PLASTIC

Thin-film describes the shroud of plastic at the edge of human experience. Globally, humans are estimated to use over 300 billion polybags and single-use, resealable sandwich and storage bags (SRPBs) every year. These bags are almost impossible to recycle — they end up in landfills or on the ground and in our ocean. 

Thin-film enters our lives for a minute, yet continues on as waste, never truly disappearing or recycled. 

  • Plastic films make up 5 million metric tons of ocean leakage, or a full 46% of all ocean plastic leakage.
  • It is estimated that there are 14 million metric tons of plastic on the ocean floor today that will be nearly impossible to extract.
  • 11 million metric tons of new plastic enters the ocean every year. That number is expected to almost triple to 29 million metric tons by 2040 — the equivalent of 241 Washington Monuments.,
  • Plastic in the ocean will only continue to endanger countless species and ecosystems already affected by increased warming, acidification, and other stressors.

WHY AN INNOVATION PRIZE?

Innovation prizes have incentivized large-scale problem-solving for over 300 years. In fact, the story of plastic starts with an innovation prize. And elephants.

In 1869, John Wesley Hyatt won the Phelan & Collender prize for inventing the world’s first plastic—celluloid—to replace ivory in billiard balls. Ivory was becoming scarce. And so were elephants. Hyatt’s innovation, inspired by the prize, marked the birth of the plastic world as we know it today. 

The Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize was established with the spirit of Hyatt’s work in mind. One hundred and fifty-two years later, the solution to the world’s plastic crisis can be found in the tale of its creation.

SUBMISSION & JUDGING PROCESS

The Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize is structured into two rounds occurring over approximately two years, followed by approximately three years of support and accelerator services for competition winners and other high-performing teams.

 

TECHNICAL SUBMISSION ROUND

The first round of the competition involves an initial submission where teams will be required to complete a detailed Submission Template outlining their innovation and describing how it aligns with the competition criteria. 

Up to 10 competitors will be selected as finalists and share in a milestone prize award of $200,000 to encourage the development of their technologies.

 

FINAL TESTING ROUND

Finalists will participate in the final round of the competition by providing samples of their materials for third-party lab testing. Prize winners will be selected based on a review of these results plus supporting materials. Three prize winners will share in a prize pool of $1 Million in investment capital and then move into the Accelerator phase of the competition.

Interested applicants should review the Competition Guidelines linked below for detailed information about the prize process, timeline, and criteria, before beginning their submission. 

 

GET STARTED

Click on the ‘Submit’ button on this page or use the ‘Login’ drop-down on the top right to start your submission. All initial competition submissions must be received by October 24, 2021, as outlined in the Timeline section below.

Plastic Innovation Prize Competition Guidelines

Interested in submitting to the prize? Just want to learn more? Join us for an informational webinar on Wednesday, June 9th at 8:00 AM PT, 3:00 PM GMT. Click here to register. Can’t make it? No worries. The session will be recorded, and we’ll have a second webinar on Tuesday, July 13th.

Timeline

  • May 18, 2021

    Prize Opens for Submissions
  • October 24, 2021

    Submission Window Closes
  • February 2022

    Finalists Announced
  • Q2 2022 - Q4 2022

    Laboratory and Field Testing
  • Q1 2023

    Winners Announced
  • Q2 2023 - Q4 2025

    Accelerator Phase and Support for Finalists

JUDGING CRITERIA

The judging criteria for the prize are designed to be holistic and comprehensive such that the competition rewards the solutions best positioned to succeed in the marketplace while also mitigating the crisis of thin-film plastic.

A detailed overview of the judging criteria, as well as the process for reviewing submissions, are provided in the Competition Guidelines.

The core judging criteria for the prize are:

  • Biological Degradation at End-Of-Life

    Materials must be capable of demonstrating soil and marine biological degradation under conditions that closely approximate natural environments.

  • Environmental & Social Impacts of Production

    Materials must minimize negative social & environmental impacts arising from their production.

  • Product Performance

    Products must meet industry standard performance specifications to ensure they are capable of functioning within packaging systems and for use by consumers.

  • Scalability

    Solutions must be scalable to meet the massive scope of the thin-film plastic pollution challenge.

  • Cost

    Solutions must have a clear pathway to becoming reasonably cost competitive with traditional thin-film plastics.

PRIZE JUDGES

Judges for the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize serve as a high-level review body tasked with selecting competitors best positioned for growth, composed of industry leaders, influencers, and scientists who will champion market adoption of thin-film alternatives.

 

TOM FORD

CEO, FOUNDER OF TOM FORD

Tom Ford was born in Austin, Texas prior to moving to New York City and Paris to study design. In 1990, Ford joined Gucci as the company’s chief womenswear designer before becoming Creative Director in 1994, ultimately becoming vice chairman. Under Ford’s leadership, Gucci became one of the largest and most profitable luxury brands in the world, with sales increasing from 230 million dollars in 1994 to 3 billion dollars in 2003.  Ford resigned from his post in 2004 and announced the creation of TOM FORD in April 2005. Today, the brand offers a complete collection of Menswear, Womenswear, Accessories, Eyewear, Beauty and most recently Underwear and Timepieces. Presently there are over 100 freestanding TOM FORD stores and shop-in-shops in locations around the world.  In addition to his achievements within the fashion industry, Ford is also an award-winning screenwriter, producer, and film director.  Tom Ford has redefined luxury. He is a visionary and his success has been recognized by a number of international awards, highlighted by winning seven Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Awards, including their prestigious Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and The Menswear Designer of the Year in 2015. In 2019, Mr. Ford took over as Chairman of the CFDA.  Ford currently lives in Los Angeles.

DON CHEADLE

Actor and Filmmaker

AUDREY CHOI

CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER & CHIEF SUSTAINABILITY OFFICER, MORGAN STANLEY

LIVIA FIRTH

MBE, ACTIVIST, PRODUCER, FOUNDER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF ECO-AGE

DR. ANDREW FORREST

FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN OF FORTESCUE METALS GROUP AND MINDEROO FOUNDATION

STELLA MCCARTNEY

OBE, FASHION DESIGNER

SUSAN ROCKEFELLER

AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER, ARTIST, CONSERVATIONIST AND THE FOUNDER OF MUSINGS

TRUDIE STYLER

Actress, film producer, director, human rights activist, environmentalist, UNICEF Ambassador, organic farmer and winemaker.

TOM SZAKY

FOUNDER AND CEO, TERRACYCLE

SASKIA VAN GENDT

HEAD OF SUSTAINABILITY AT ROTHY’S

DANNI WASHINGTON

SCIENCE COMMUNICATOR AND CO-FOUNDER, THE BIG BLUE AND YOU

MELATI WIJSEN

FOUNDER OF YOUTHTOPIA AND BYE BYE PLASTIC BAGS

SCIENTIFIC & TECHNICAL ADVISORY BOARD

The prize Scientific & Technical Advisory Board is tasked with ensuring winning solutions meet clear environmental standards at both production and end-of-life and are positioned for market adoption by meeting performance and scalability criteria.

MARCUS ERIKSEN

Research Director and co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute

ENZO FAVOINO

DIRECTOR OF SUSTAINABLE WASTE MANAGEMENT, SCUOLA AGRARIA DEL PARCO DI MONZA

DR. FABIEN LAURIER

Director, Technology and Innovation, Minderoo Foundation

ERIN MEYER

DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION PROGRAMS AND PARTNERSHIPS, SEATTLE AQUARIUM

ELLIE MOSS

Senior Advisor, Encourage Capital

DR. RAMANI NARAYAN

Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Michigan State University

JAMIE ROWLES

HEAD OF INVESTMENTS, SKY OCEAN VENTURES

J. R. SIEGEL

SUSTAINABILITY STRATEGIST, WRITER, AND BUSINESS LEADER

PRIZE INVESTMENT ALLIANCE

The Prize Investment Alliance consists of business and technology leaders with expertise in venture capital, finance, impact investing, entrepreneurship, marketing, and technology commercialization. The Alliance will advise the Judges on the business model, market viability, and financing of finalist submissions, and will help provide investment capital for the prize winners. 

 

MATT GROSSMAN

Chief Executive Officer and Manager of ALG Investment Management, LLC

Questions? Email us at info@plasticprize.org

Learn more