Plastic Pollution Coalition Nominates 2 Solutions for The Earthshot Prize

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.

What’s Next?

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!

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Plastic Pollution Coalition is pleased to announce our eight nominees for The Earthshot Prize 2022. We are honored to be among the 345 official Nominators from 80 countries to select projects with simple but ambitious goals for our planet which, if achieved by 2030, will improve life for us all, 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 and aims to turn the current pessimism surrounding environmental issues into optimism, by highlighting the ability of human ingenuity to bring about change, and inspiring collective action. Winners of The Earthshot Prize will be granted GBP £1 million, along with additional support to help scale their impact.

We received many inspiring recommendations for nominations this year, and choosing just a handful was a real challenge. We prioritized nominees for solutions that address the plastic pollution crisis at the source by seeking ways to reduce plastic production and use, center environmental justice, and have the potential to scale in the next few years to make an even greater impact. We also chose solutions that work with broad networks or that have been in existence for at least a few years.

Without further ado, our 2022 nominees for The Earthshot Prize are (in alphabetical order):


1. Flip the Script on Plastics
(Plastic Pollution Coalition)

Research demonstrates that films and television have the power to shift culture by modeling changes needed in society. Launched with an initial focus on U.S. television and films, the goal of Flip the Script on Plastics is to replace throwaway plastic on screen with reusable/refillable options and feature storylines describing the intersecting impacts of plastics on frontline communities, health, and climate.

Single-use plastics are the primary source of plastic pollution on the planet. With 99% of plastics made from fossil fuels, the climate and environmental justice implications are at crisis levels. This initiative features the first-ever analysis of portrayals of single-use plastics on television, a media campaign, and entertainment industry engagement, including workshops and field trips for writers, creators, and performers—with the potential for massive impact.


2. Hope Spots
(Mission Blue)

In 2009, Dr. Sylvia Earle won the esteemed TED Prize for her profound talk on the dire state of the world’s oceans, sounding a clarion call to halt and reverse the damage. Her proposed solution: “I wish you would use all means at your disposal—films, expeditions, the web, submarines—to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas; Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.” Thus, Mission Blue was born with the quest to inspire action for exploring and protecting the ocean through creation of Hope Spots.

Mission Blue went from zero Hope Spots in 2010 to 140 by the end of 2021, a herculean effort. These marine-protected areas foster critical health for the ocean and our planet. The Hope Spot community is a vibrant ecosystem of people as diverse as the ocean itself, from 69 countries worldwide. The Earthshot Prize would substantially increase Mission Blue’s ability to develop Hope Spots around the world and contribute meaningfully to the global goal of 30% of ocean protection by 2030.


3. PLAN Movement Building Fund
(The Post Landfill Action Network)

The PLAN Movement Building Fund (MBF) is a pathway into the Zero Waste movement addressing financial barriers, including the lack of financial resources, an obstacle that is embedded in structural and institutional inequalities across race, class, ability, and gender. MBF provides scholarships to their annual Student Zero Waste Conference, free resources to campus groups with limited funding, and payment to students and community organizers. They aim to directly support people who have been historically marginalized and dedicate a portion of the MBF’s resources to those most impacted by systemic oppression.

PLAN believes the more campuses work towards a common goal of zero waste, the more we grow a wider movement of student power across the nation and eventually globally.


4. Reusable Packaging Standards and Infrastructure
(PR3)

Reusable packaging is the most effective way to address the plastic and waste crises. Standardized reuse can eliminate up to 90% of packaging production and 80% of related climate emissions. PR3’s reusable packaging standards set core requirements to align durable packaging around shared infrastructure, like washing facilities, collection, and transport. 

Shared standards facilitate the conditions needed to scale the new industry, including lowering risk for corporate and municipal investments, decreasing system costs, and increasing convenience, quality assurance, and consumer and investor confidence.

While reducing system costs, PR3 standards also build in protections to guarantee pricing for collection and returns, hourly wages, and accessibility for consumers without smartphones, bank accounts, or credit cards. PR3 is working with multiple players, including World Economic Forum, Nestle, Cisco, issue NGOs, and dozens of reuse startups to create a globally aligned reuse system for multiple cities.


5. Toxic Tours
(Break Free From Pl
astic)

It is critical that individuals around the world understand the toxic consequences of plastic production on communities and the environment. Plastic is made from fossil fuels. Its entire value chain, from extraction to transformation to production, negatively contributes to climate change and creates a toxic environment that disproportionately harms frontline communities. 

The Break Free From Plastic Toxic Tours platform is led by environmental justice groups with the goal of elevating the stories of frontline communities living near petrochemical sites around the globe. The platform builds inclusion and equity by creating a space for frontline communities to share their stories and share their local site fights. In the second phase more voices will be added to the map, for incineration, recycling, and solutions. 

The Toxic Tours will be used not only for educational purposes but also by organizations in their advocacy efforts.


6. Vessel

Vessel empowers people to ditch throwaway culture and provides communities with a superior, less expensive scalable option to avoid single-use disposable foodware, eliminating waste and lowering climate impacts. Universal infrastructure that facilitates the recovery and redistribution of reusable containers is fundamental to the reuse transition. Vessel is a proven leader in reusables/refillables, allowing people to make better choices by using pioneering customized open-source tracking and management software.

73% of Vessel users begin to rethink their daily single-use disposable habits after 3 weeks of using the service. Reuse can address 2% of the climate budget and can change the way people behave, acting as a highly visible leverage point, harnessing social proofing, and changing world views.


7. Zero Waste Bonds
(Zero Waste Europe)

Today we have the technical knowledge and solutions to address the challenges around biowaste. What is lacking is the right funding going to the right solutions. Zero Waste Bonds will enable the testing of innovative/sustainable solutions addressing ways to invest in early intervention services that might not get funded otherwise and geared towards zero waste problem prevention. Zero Waste Bonds will bring systemic changes by encouraging private investors and public institutions to collaborate as well as local communities, enterprises, and organizations in working together to tackle social challenges.

Creating a Zero Waste Bond is pioneering a bold approach that not only contributes to identifying solutions that bring the most value to communities while addressing climate change challenges, but it also stimulates successful outcomes. Similar mechanisms exist in addressing healthcare access or providing education programs and can be replicable indefinitely.


8. Zero Waste Cities Certification
(Mission Zero Academy)

Zero Waste Cities Certification is a highly replicable and scalable model ready to trigger a systemic change within 2–5 years by creating a new normal and higher standards for ambitious waste management. The certification is based on 10 years of experience by Zero Waste Europe transitioning 450 cities to zero waste. It formalizes and harmonizes proven, impactful practices into criteria which serve as a to-do list for cities to transform their waste handling, go above EU targets, and save money. The process is guided by a mentor who ensures that the changes are impactful, fit the local context, and keep the residents onboard. 

With its self-funding mechanisms once at scale, its impact will keep growing without needing external financing—a truly self-sustainable system. An exciting prospect is that there are 12 million people living in cities that are currently considering joining the certification system.


What’s Next?

The Earthshot Prize team will now begin the process of evaluating the various solutions nominated from around the world—including these eight nominees—and will choose winners later this year. We congratulate our nominees and wish them the very best of luck!

Also note there were many solutions sent to us that we think have excellent potential! Please know that if we did not submit you this year, that doesn’t mean we won’t next time. Some nominations we received were strong but just needed broader reach or a little more experience and time to develop. So please keep up the great work and consider applying again next year.

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