As an official Nominator Organization for the third year running, Plastic Pollution Coalition is excited to announce our nominees for The Earthshot Prize 2024. We are honored to be among the 432 Official Nominators from 75 countries to select projects with ambitious but achievable goals that have the potential to restore our planet for generations to come.
Launched by Prince William and The Royal Foundation in October 2020, The Earthshot Prize is the most prestigious global environment prize in history, inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot which united millions of people around the goal of reaching the moon. The prize aims to spark the world’s collective imagination and drive urgent action by supporting and amplifying changemaking environmental and social projects that aim to solve some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. Winners of the prize are awarded GBP £1 million to scale their solutions. In addition to the prestigious title, project funding, and exposure from winning the prize, finalists receive mentorship, technical support and resources to help them accelerate their work.
This year, we selected two nominees that are rapidly scaling restorative and transformational solutions to an increasingly urgent plastic pollution crisis. Between them, our nominees are driving global policy change and leveraging infinitely regenerating biomaterials to avoid catastrophic climate change from petrochemical emissions and safeguard people and the planet from the perils of plastic pollution. With that, we would like to present our nominees for The Earthshot Prize 2024.
We need real solutions to end plastic pollution, and the solutions presented by our 2024 Earthshot Prize nominees could help contribute to a healthier world free from plastic pollution and its toxic impacts. The UN Plastics Treaty will only be as effective as what goes into it, and the High Ambition Coalition’s approach offers the best chance for an international agreement that would make a profound difference for people and the planet. The best solutions are still always reusable, non-toxic options, but when single-use is necessary, Ecovative’s mycelium technology is a promising, regenerative alternative.— Julia Cohen, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Plastic Pollution Coalition
1. High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution (HAC)
At a pivotal moment in modern history, the first of its kind Global Plastics Treaty presents an unprecedented opportunity to address plastic pollution through international diplomacy.
The High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution is an intergovernmental coalition of more than 64 countries working towards an ambitious Global Plastics Treaty that ensures urgent action and effective interventions throughout the entirety of the plastic life cycle, from fossil fuel extraction to disposal. Co-chaired by Rwanda and Norway, this coalition has taken a leadership role in advocating for binding provisions in the treaty that turn off the plastic tap through upstream policy interventions proven to curb plastic pollution and restore ecosystems and economic conditions across the planet.
Backed by the global scientific community, the High Ambition Coalition is calling for provisions, including:
- Reduce and restrain the production of primary plastic polymers;
- Eliminate problematic plastics and chemicals of concern, including by bans and restrictions;
- Develop global sustainability criteria and standards for plastics;
- Set global baselines and targets for sustainability throughout the life-cycle of plastics;
- Ensure transparency in the value chain of plastics;
- Establish mechanisms for strengthening commitments, targets, and controls over time;
- Implement monitoring and reporting at each stage through the lifecycle of plastics; and
- Facilitate effective technical and financial assistance as well as scientific and socio-economic assessments.
Industry groups and some international coalitions have stalled treaty negotiations to focus on waste management-focused and “bottom-up” approaches that would, among other things, allow countries to set their own targets and policies. Ultimately, this only works to serve fossil fuel and plastic interests, and harms people and the planet. In November, at the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3), industry representatives outnumbered delegates from the 70 smallest UN Member States combined. To combat industry influence and ineffective voluntary commitments, the High Ambition Coalition has mobilized a growing network of countries to stand up to the interests of fossil fuels and vehemently push for interventions that serve the interests of all people, with special consideration for frontline communities that have disproportionately burdened the toxic impacts of petrochemical production and plastic pollution.
The HAC provides the North Star for guiding ambition within the treaty negotiation process and is the only cross-regional group of countries with a clear set of priorities, approaches, and common ambition. There are other coalitions from different sectors – notably the Scientists Coalition, the Civil Society and Rightsholder Coalition, and the Business Coalition – which are all driving momentum as part of the constellation of ambition for the negotiations, but ultimately in a state-led process, it is this ambitious set of governments that are charting the course towards an effective agreement and clearly spelling out the necessary ingredients for success.– Christina Dixon, Environment Investigation Agency
The HAC’s work has the potential to re-shape the fragmented and inadequate landscape of plastics policy globally, safeguarding human health and protecting critical planetary systems that are dangerously close to tipping points.
2. Mycelium Technology, by Ecovative
Ecovative’s mycelium technology is a socially and environmentally restorative nontoxic solution that can be rapidly scaled and applied to some of the most carbon-intensive and heavy polluting industries. Whether replacing harmful plastics in product packaging, clothing, and construction, or generating higher yields and improving economic conditions for farming communities, Ecovative’s innovative mycelium products have seemingly endless applications that are realigning business with the cycles of nature and regenerating the planet.
For millions of years, mycelium has powered the systems of nature by transforming decaying matter into essential nutrients. Now, Ecovative is harnessing its potential as a supermaterial to prevent plastic pollution and waste materials, conserve critical manufacturing inputs such as energy and water, drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve land management practices, create new job markets, and more.
Mycelium technology represents a new material category that not only competes with existing materials across industries, but also creates interesting new possibilities. Whether in packaging, leather replacements, construction materials, or food, their products and technology can be integrated directly into existing supply chains and processes while sparking innovation. The company has already demonstrated that they can replace materials at commercial scale, and have recently ramped up production capacities to respond to demand.
Earlier this year, Ecovative opened access to a major European patent to all individuals and businesses who wish to use its MycoComposite™ mycelium materials in their own innovations and businesses in Europe. The renewable MycoComposite material offers a nontoxic and more planet-friendly alternative to plastics and other fossil fuel–derived materials made from compostable and regenerative mushroom mycelium. The European Open Patent Program for MycoComposite is intended to encourage innovation in plastic-free products, and has the potential to stem breakthroughs in the technology which could have far reaching implications for industries seeking climate solutions.
In addition to the clear social and climate-positive benefits of mycelium, their recent advancements in production capacity, R&D processes, and strategic partnerships across industries positions Ecovative as an unparalleled leader capable of changing business for good and creating lasting positive impact.
Over the next 6 months the Earthshot team will utilize a rigorous assessment process to select the 15 most inclusive, impactful and inspiring solutions to become Finalists. These finalists will be announced in the fall of 2024, and the five winners awarded the prize during the ceremony soon after. New this year, the Earthshot team is supporting nominees beyond the 15 Finalists with new initiatives and expanding the Earthshot Launchpad to connect more nominees with sources of capital. We wish our nominees the best of luck!