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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Fashion, Beverage Industries Continue to Advance Solutions to Plastic Waste

The $1.2M Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize seeks scalable, alternative solutions for thin-film plastic; while Paboco has eliminated plastic from Absolut’s bio-based beverage bottle, making it fully recyclable.

Tom Ford, 52HZ offer $1.2M prize for plastic film alternatives

Image credit: Plastic Innovation Prize

Submissions are now open for the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize to foster scalable alternative solutions for thin-film plastic — a ubiquitous packaging material for fashion and ecommerce, which accounts for 46 percent of all ocean plastic leakage.

In December 2019, Fashion for Good launched its Circular Polybag Pilot — an industry-first trial in partnership with adidasC&AKeringOtto Group and PVH Corp aiming to develop a truly circular solution for the roughly 180 billion virgin polybags produced to store, transport and protect garments, footwear and accessories each year.

Now, the Plastic Innovation Prize is hoping to make its own dent in the problem. Powered by award-winning filmmaker and fashion designer Tom Ford and 52HZ — a strategy and behavior change agency recently launched by Lonely Whale, it is the only material science innovation competition that incentivizes the creative development and adoption of affordable and scalable alternatives to thin-film plastic. The two-year competition, followed by three years of support for competition finalists, offers a purse total of more than $1 million. By bringing investors, major brands and other partners together in an action-focused coalition, the Plastic Innovation Prize will offer dedicated support to help finalists reach scale and market adoption by 2025, creating an inflection point in the fight against plastic pollution.

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“Sustainability is a key, critical issue in our lives now,” Ford says. “Plastic pollution is taking one of the greatest tolls on our environment and thin-film plastic makes up 46 percent of all plastic waste entering our ocean. We will continue to advocate for the adoption of the winning innovations and will do whatever we can to turn the tide of plastic pollution and thin-film plastic specifically. We need to work towards finding a solution before it’s too late to save our environment.”

Today, just two products — single-use, resealable sandwich storage bags and plastic polybags used by the fashion industry — represent over 300 billion thin-film plastic bags disposed of annually. The Plastic Innovation Prize will enable finalists to bring biodegradable thin-film plastic alternatives to market, so the ocean does not continue to pay the price of these products.

“Thin-film plastic enters our lives for a minute, yet continues on as waste, never truly disappearing,” says Lonely Whale CEO Dr. Dune Ives. “The origin story of plastic starts with an innovation prize, and the solution to the plastic crisis can be found in the tale of its creation. As a campaign organization capable of catalyzing global change on a massive scale, the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize is an opportunity to create another new beginning and promote solutions commensurate with the plastic pollution problem.”

An esteemed panel of judges from the arts, fashion, finance and nonprofit worlds, led by Ford, will vet and stress-test submissions and ensure they are scalable and market-ready by 2025. Judges will work in tandem with a distinguished panel of scientific and technical experts from fields such as materials science, ocean health, and product development — including Dr. Ramani Narayan, University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science. To ensure that the thin-film alternatives sourced through the prize are capable of solving the dramatic impact of thin-film plastics on our ocean, the prize evaluation criteria includes a comprehensive set of lab and field testing analyses conducted in partnership with the Bioseniatic℠ Laboratory at the UGA New Materials Institute.

The Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize Investment Alliance will be chaired by investor Matt Grossman; and judges include actor Don Cheadle; Audrey Choi, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer at Morgan Stanley; Livia Firth, founder and Creative Director of Eco-Age; Dr. Andrew Forrest AO, founder of Minderoo Foundation; Saskia van Gendt, Head of Sustainability at Rothy’s; designer Stella McCartney; and TerraCycle founder and CEO Tom Szaky.

Submissions to the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize are open today through October 24, 2021. Learn more about submission guidelines and prize rules at

Paboco reveals prototype of next-generation paper bottle

Image credit: Paboco

Meanwhile, Paboco — the Paper Bottle Community — has reached an important milestone: a first prototype of the next-generation paper bottle.

It all began in 2015, when Carlsberg kicked off its own project to develop a bottle made from sustainably sourced wood fibers, alongside innovation experts ecoXpac, packaging company Billerudkorsnäs and post-doctoral researchers from the Danish Technical University. These combined efforts resulted in the emergence of Paboco® (the Paper Bottle Company) — a joint venture between BillerudKorsnäs and bottle manufacturing specialist Alpla — and the corresponding paper bottle community (which now also includes The Absolut Company, The Coca Cola Company and L’Oréal) that unites the participating global companies and experts with the with a goal to change the industry for good by developing recyclable and 100 percent biobased paper bottles at scale.

Absolut made headlines last fall when it announced the development of a prototype for a fully recyclable paper bottle, comprised of 57 percent paper and 43 percent recycled plastic (PET) barrier. Now, Paboco has says it has eliminated the plastic and fully integrated the barrier — the coating that separates the liquid from the paper — into the paper bottle itself.

“This milestone is for Paboco the next and most exciting step on our innovation journey to deliver recyclable and fully biobased paper bottles,” said Paboco CTO Florian Müller. “We have invested for 2 years into this development and are proud to present the first prototype now. We know there is still a lot of work ahead to offer this at scale, but each step brings us closer to that target.”

The plastic barrier film has been replaced with a fully integrated bio-based barrier coating, which will significantly decrease the bottle weight; and a paper thread has been integrated so the closure (still in development) can be applied directly onto the bottle. The bottle will be able to be recycled as paper in the paper recycling stream.

Now that Paboco has a proven prototype that works for liquid, the next phase is to finalize the closure solution and conduct joint quality testing with our partners and their respective products. Absolut still expects its first-generation bottles to be on shelves for testing in 2021 to collect learnings throughout the value chain from supply, logistics, consumer experience, recycling etc; with the next generation expected to be on shelves by 2023.

And with fellow spirits giants Bacardi and Diageo also developing plant-based bottle solutions of their own, we’re looking forward to expanding our selection of ways to imbibe sustainably.