11 Mar 2018 Press release Oceans & seas

#CleanSeas Innovation Challenge awards bright ideas to fight marine litter

The winners of the #CleanSeas Innovation Challenge, a competition among university students awarding creative ideas in tackling one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time, were announced today.

Launched in June last year by UN Environment in partnership with Think Beyond Plastic, the challenge was meant to inspire university students worldwide to come up with innovative solutions to the problem of marine litter. 

Contestants could submit ideas in four separate fields: engineering, communications, economics and prediction and recovery. Almost two hundred original and forward-looking project proposals were submitted to a jury of leaders in science, business, visual and performing arts, filmmaking and economics with four winners taking home awards.

  • In the communication track, winners came up with the idea of reusable bags coupled with a strong outreach effort to encourage people to stop using single-use plastic bags. The bags, called Tasini, are designed as different marine animals that represent the ecosystems they aim to protect. These will appear as eco-ambassadors in several cartoons that the project will produce. The videos will present short stories about marine plastic, thereby contributing to raising awareness about the issue, while encouraging consumers to change their habits.
  • In the design and engineering track, winners came up with an idea of designing a biodegradable plastic out of egg whites from waste eggs. The project, aptly named eggxellent, aims to use this “plastic” to make cups and plates and sell these commercially.
  • In the economics track, the winning project called Ecoboat, coming out of Cameroon, created a recycling scheme for plastic bottles that were then used to build canoes, to be used by artisanal fisherfolk.
  • Finally, in the prediction and recovery track, the winning contribution found a way of using remote sensing to detect marine litter along the Chilean coast.
  • The four winners will present their ideas during the Sixth International Marine Debris Conference in San Diego, and gain entry into the Think Beyond Plastic annual acceleration programme.

“The winners of the #CleanSeas plastic pollution challenge have all shown great creativity in coming up with new solutions to address what is one of the most urgent environmental issues of our time. I wish them the best of luck moving forward with their ideas”, said Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim.

Each year, 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans: the equivalent of a full garbage truck every minute. This pollution threatens the survival of fish and other sea creatures, destroys marine and coastal ecosystems that support over three billion people worldwide, and endangers human health by entering the food chain. To combat this, UN Environment launched the #CleanSeas campaign in February 2017.

About Think Beyond Plastic

Think Beyond Plastic is an innovation accelerator focused on eliminating plastic pollution and advancing the transition towards bio-benign materials from renewable sources and associated manufacturing processes, innovative products and packaging design. It identifies early stage innovations, develops bridge to commercialization for qualified startups in all stages, and cultivates the investor network. Participants in its annual accelerator cohort benefit from a rich program incorporating business modeling, customer discovery, product development, go-to-market strategy, financial planning, identifying and managing strategic partnerships. For more information visit ThinkBeyondPlastic.com; follow @tbpinnovate

About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

For general information:

Think Beyond Plastic Anne Warner, awarner@thinkbeyondplastics.com (908) 827-1091