The finalists in the world’s only global competition focused exclusively on creating scalable and biologically degradable thin-film plastic alternatives were announced this week. The eight finalists bring perspectives and innovations from four continents.

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The Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize is a partnership between American fashion designer and film director Tom Ford and the nonprofit Lonely Whale, whose mission is to keep plastic waste out of the ocean. The competition offers more than $1.2 million in prize money, plus support to get the innovations on the market.

The Xampla team working in a lab on plastic alternatives.

Related: Tom Ford launches new plastic film alternative competition

“What we accomplish together through this competition will catalyze global change across continents, countries and industries, which is urgently needed to address plastic pollution,” Ford said in a statement.

Fruit in a Sway plastic alternative bag.

Meet the plastic alternatives finalists

From KenyaLwanda Biotech addresses both agricultural waste and community-level plastic pollution with packaging alternatives. Zerocircle is based in India, where it cultivates seaweed to make packaging that’s safe for wildlife and the ocean. Icelandic start-up Marea is looking toward algae to make biodegradable alternatives to thin-film plastic.

The Lwanda Biotech team working in a lab.

The U.K. has three finalists. Sustainable biotech company Kelpi, based in Bath, is also working with seaweed, as is London-based Notpla. A spinout from the University of Cambridge, Xampla is turning pea and other plant proteins into plastic alternatives.

A stack of Notpla packaging.

The two North American finalists are Canadian biotech firm Genecis, which is reprogramming and upcycling bacteria from low-value organic waste, and Sway, an American company that is also in camp seaweed.

An array of Zerocircle bags.

Judges chose finalists from 64 applications representing 26 countries and six continents. The talented eight finalists will now spend a year in material testing. They will need to demonstrate that their plastic alternatives are biologically degradable, meet industry standards and have minimal adverse environmental and social impacts. They also must be scalable and cost-competitive.

Kelpi team in the lab.

What’s the connection between fashion and thin-film plastic? Every year, the fashion industry uses about 180 billion thin-film plastic polybags. Thin-film plastic accounts for an estimated 46% of new plastic entering the ocean annually.

“The ambition of this Prize is unparalleled, and is poised to claim the largest commercial shift away from non-recyclable thin-film plastic,” said Dune Ives, CEO of Lonely Whale. “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.”

Via Plastic Prize

Lead image via Pexels

Additional images courtesy of Kelpi, Notpla, Sway, Lwanda Biotech, Xampla and Zerocircle