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Innovators who are Challenging Plastic Waste across the globe

In support of this year's European Social Innovation Competition: Challenging Plastic Waste, we have explored exciting initiatives from around the world doing great work in this field.

The 2019 edition of the European Social Innovation Competition will reward the most innovative approaches to reducing plastic waste and improving re-use and recycling of plastic at a systemic level in Europe. In anticipation of the end of the Competition’s entry period Thursday 4th April 2019, 12:00 noon (CET), we have explored some exciting initiatives from around the world that are already doing great work in this field.

Replacing single use plastic cutlery with edible versions (India)

Whether it is accompanying street food, lunch on the go or an impromptu picnic; single use cutlery can be very useful. Rather than producing it from plastic, resulting in mountains of spoons and forks in landfill, Bakeys in India have produced cutlery with dough made from a mixture of sorghum, rice and wheat flours. After using their cutlery to eat your meal, you can then eat the cutlery itself! Or if you aren’t too hungry you can place your fork into mud or soil and it will decompose.

edible fork

Making reusable water bottles fashionable (USA)

Humans have to drink water to survive. The mobile and busy nature of modern lives have subsequently resulted in a huge creation of plastic water bottles, providing hydration on the go. The movement fighting back against this trend and promoting the use of re-fillable water bottles has been around for a while, but US based S’well have taken this to the mainstream, become a $100M company by producing stylish bottles for use on the go and in the office. In 2018 they even donated 320,000 of their bottles to ensure every high schooler in New York had a reusable water bottle!


Utilising plastic waste to build houses (Columbia)

In Bogota, Columbia 700 tons of plastic waste is discarded daily, with only 100 tons of that ever recycled. Conceptos Plásticos are making use of all this plastic waste by transforming it into construction material for use in building houses across Colombia. They donate the material to families in need and then teach them how to use it to make a home.

plastic building

Removing plastic waste from the shopping experience (Malaysia)

Zero waste shops are a small but growing movement across the globe. Hive Bulk Foods, the first store of it’s kind in Malaysia offer over 300 bulk whole foods from nuts and rice to cleaning products and dog treats. The organisation has taken significant measures to reduce their environmental footprint and incorporate sustainable practices in their business operations and practices. They even hold workshops to promote the zero waste lifestyle to more people.

hive shop

Upcycling plastic waste to help children’s education (South Africa)

In rural South Africa, school children are asked to bring plastic waste in to their school, which is then collected up by the Rethaka Foundation and repurposed in schoolbags for the children. Not only do these bag’s make use of existing plastic waste, they also feature solar panels, which charge up during the children’s walk to school, and then provide light for them to do their homework in the evening.

plastic rucksack

Plastic waste truly does provide great opportunity for social innovation!

Has this helped spark an idea for how you can help us in Challenging Plastic Waste? You can use our Idea Generation Kit to explore and develop your thoughts.

If you have an idea, then visit our website to enter the European Social Innovation Competition 2019. The Competition is open to anyone aged 18+ living in the E.U. or Horizon 2020 Associated Countries. All you need is an idea! All entries must be submitted online by 4th April 12:00 (midday) CET.

30 Semi-Finalists from across Europe will be chosen to receive a package of support from experienced social innovators to further the development of their ideas. Finally 3 Winners are chosen to each receive €50,000! We are looking for ideas from social innovators, entrepreneurs, students, designers, businesses, and anyone else who wants to help challenge plastic waste. APPLY HERE

EUSIC 2019 competition timeline

This blog post originally appeared on eusic.challenges.org

The European Social Innovation Competition is a challenge prize funded by the European Commission since 2013. It is delivered by Nesta, in partnership with Kennisland, Ashoka Spain, ENoLL and Scholz & Friends.

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Gary Fawdrey

Gary Fawdrey

Gary Fawdrey

Assistant Programme Manager - Sustainable Communities, Nesta Challenges

Gary worked on social innovation and tech for good prizes.

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