Charles joins Dame Ellen MacArthur to launch contest to reduce plastic waste

Updated: 

A competition to encourage the reduction of plastics in the world's oceans will be launched by Dame Ellen MacArthur and the Prince of Wales.

Charles, who has been campaigning on the issue for some time, has joined forces with the famous yachtswoman to tackle a problem he sees as an escalating ecological and human disaster.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Prince's International Sustainability Unit (ISU) will launch the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize in central London to challenge groups and individuals to find new ways of designing packaging to help keep it out of the oceans.

Dame Ellen's foundation published a report earlier this year with the World Economic Forum which claimed that by 2050, the oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish, by weight.

The yachtswoman said: "After 40 years of effort, globally only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, with one third escaping collection and ending up in the environment.

"If we want to change this, we must fundamentally rethink the way we make and use plastics.

"We need better materials, clever product designs and circular business models. That's why we are launching the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, calling for innovators, designers, scientists and entrepreneurs to help create a plastics system that works."

Charles, whose ISU has been campaigning for sustainability within the marine environment, will deliver the keynote speech at the launch event.

At a meeting earlier this year with business leaders, designers and material experts, the Prince called for a rethink in the way products are designed, saying the "re-use, recovery and regeneration'' model should be adopted.

The prize features two elements: a circular design challenge invites applicants to rethink how products can get to the consumer without generating plastic waste like wrappers, straws and coffee cup lids; while the circular materials challenge seeks ways to make all plastic packaging recyclable.

Entrants are competing for hundreds of thousands of pounds in grants and winners will enter a 12-month accelerator programme offering access to industry experts, commercial guidance and labs for testing and development.

The first winners will be announced later this year.