While new recycling technologies, reusable solutions, new business models, and policy changes are critical pieces to solving the world’s plastic crisis, we believe the most impactful approach for solving the issues with thin-film plastic is through material innovation.
This is largely because thin-film plastic is a high-volume, low-value product, making many circular economy approaches challenging and the unit economics inhospitable for new recycling approaches
It is unclear how the use of these materials would change behavior. People already have challenges adhering to existing waste management systems and it is not clear that the presence of these materials would make them even more likely to do so.
Also, large portions of the marine plastic problem arise from jurisdictions with ineffective or insufficient waste management systems, so alternative materials are a mitigation strategy for these issues.
52HZ is working closely with marine debris experts to understand the potential for challenges arising from the implementation of new materials, and as a campaign organization will reinforce how waste management is key regardless of end of life performance of the prize materials.
Tom Ford and 52HZ want to ensure that whatever materials are put forth through the competition will actually help solve the issue of thin-film plastic pollution. We know that these materials will end up in our environment, regardless of our best efforts to prevent this from happening. By testing the biological degradation of the materials developed by finalist teams, using rigorous and scientifically valid testing protocols, we can help ensure that the adoption of these materials can actually help reduce the impact of mismanaged waste on our natural environment, rather than creating a whole new set of challenges for our ocean and terrestrial environments.
The grand prize purse is structured as an investment for two reasons:
(1) It increases the tax efficiency of the award because a cash prize would be considered taxable income, and it shifts the taxation burden from the winning team to those funding the prize purse.
(2) It ensures that winning teams continue their innovation journey and are incentivized to continue scaling their technologies.