Material science competition the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize, created by the fashion designer in partnership with Lonely Whale, has named three winners who will receive investment from its 1.2 million US dollar prize purse to help scale their marine-safe and biologically degradable alternatives to traditional thin-film plastic made from fossil fuels.
Commenting on the innovative competition, Ford said in a statement: “I started this Prize three years ago with a harrowing fear that the world our children would inherit would no longer be a liveable one. I wanted to be a part of the solution, not be an arbiter of the problem. If we did nothing about the waste and pollution flooding our oceans the disruption to our planet would be irreconcilable.
“Watching the brilliant minds within this competition has given me extraordinary hope in making the impossible possible. Our three winners have created truly viable alternatives – alternatives that when scaled across markets and industries will drastically change the course of the health of our planet.”
The three winners were selected following a nine-month-long testing phase to “ensure their materials are biologically degradable, minimize negative social and environmental impacts, meet industry performance standards, and are also cost-competitive, scalable and market-ready”. The testing was led by the New Materials Institute at the University of Georgia and the Seattle Aquarium, including field exams in Caribbean waters and in-lab testing.
Sway, Zerocircle and Notpla win funding from the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize
Sway, an American company offering seaweed-based, home-compostable replacements for regenerative thin-film plastic packaging at scale will receive an investment of 600,000 US dollars, while India-based Zerocircle, which is making wildlife and ocean-safe packaging materials from locally cultivated seaweed that will dissolve harmlessly in the ocean after use was awarded 250,000 US dollars.
The third winner, Notpla, a London-based start-up inspired by the way nature encapsulates liquids on a mission to make plastic waste disappear by pioneering natural-membrane packaging that uses seaweed as an alternative to single-use plastic, will receive 150,000 US dollars.
In addition, a Milestone Award of 200,000 US dollars was paid out equally to all finalists in 2022, which included Genecis, Kelpi, Lwanda Biotech, Marea, and Xampla.
Julia Marsh, co-founder and chief executive of Sway, which took first place in the competition, said: "At Sway, we’re working to replenish the planet from sea to soil, and, thanks to the support of the Prize, we’re better positioned than ever to scale our solution for fossil fuel-based plastics to meet industry need.”
The cash prize and investment fund features investment from title sponsor Tom Ford Beauty, The Estée Lauder Companies and Trousdale Ventures.
Lonely Whale to launch accelerator
Following the prize, non-profit Lonely Whale added that it is launching an Innovation Accelerator sponsored by Tom Ford Beauty and The Estée Lauder Companies, designed to ensure prize winners achieve widespread market adoption of their innovative alternatives to traditional thin-film. Further details will be announced in June.