TOM FORD Plastic Innovation Prize Announces Finalists

The competitive initiative against pollution is nearing the end as submissions are narrowed to eight finalists.

On Tuesday, designer Tom Ford and CEO of Lonely Whale, Dr. Dune Ives have revealed the finalists of the TOM FORD Plastic Innovation Prize. Originally announced in 2020, the eponymous brand launched the effort with Lonely Whale to focus on creating scalable and biologically degradable alternatives to thin-film plastic polybags. 

Selected from over several dozen applications that spanned 26 countries and six continents, the finalists come from various backgrounds, from Canada to Kenya to India. They are as follows: 

  • Genecis, a Canadian biotechnology company that reprograms bacteria to make premium materials from low-value organic waste;
  • Kelpi, a sustainable biotech company from Bath, UK harnessing the properties of seaweed to create compostable, marine-safe, low-carbon bioplastic packaging;
  • Lwanda Biotech, a Kenyan-based social enterprise addressing both community-level plastic pollution and agricultural waste through the development of alternatives to thin-film plastic packaging;
  • Marea, an Icelandic start-up leveraging sustainable local algae streams to create a replicable model for thin-film alternatives that fully biodegrade;
  • Notpla, a London-based start-up inspired by the way nature encapsulates liquids and is on a mission to make plastic waste disappear by pioneering natural-membrane packaging that uses seaweed as an alternative to single-use plastic;
  • Sway, an American company offering seaweed-based, home-compostable replacements for thin-film plastic packaging, aiming to offer a carbon-negative material at scale;
  • Xampla, a University of Cambridge spinout inspired by the strength of spider silk, turning proteins, from common plant sources like peas, into high-performance plastic-alternative materials;
  • Zerocircle, an India-based company making wildlife and ocean-safe packaging materials from locally cultivated seaweed that will dissolve harmlessly in the ocean after use.

“What we accomplish together through this competition will catalyze global change across continents, countries and industries, urgently needed to address plastic pollution,” said Ford. “If the ocean is polluted and in danger, then so is the planet, and so are we. The impact these brilliant minds and their creations will have on our planet is monumental, bringing us their innovative solutions to making the environment a safer place for generations to come. I am pleased to announce the following finalists, whom we celebrate today for their exceptional alternatives to thin-film plastic polybags:”

From this point on, the finalists will begin a year-long material testing phase that Nike sponsors to ensure that their material minimizes negative environmental and social impact, is cost-competitive, and is biologically degradable.  Winners will be announced in Spring 2023; The TOM FORD Plastic Innovation Prize offers a reward totaling more than $1.2 million. Prize winners will receive significant support from Lonely Whale and other partners in the following years to achieve market adoption.

“The ambition of this Prize is unparalleled and is poised to claim the largest commercial shift away from non-recyclable thin-film plastic,” said Dr. Ives in the release. “We’ve long believed that the solutions to the plastic waste crisis exist, and by working together, we can ensure a future free from plastic in the ocean.”

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