The Prince of Wales attends the launch of the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize

The Prince of Wales has attended the launch of the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, a competition that encourages innovators to find new ways of designing packaging to help keep plastics out of the ocean.

The Prince of Wales with Ellen MacArthur and Wendy Schmidt
The Prince of Wales with Ellen MacArthur and Wendy Schmidt

At the Saatchi Gallery in London, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and The Prince's International Sustainability Unit (ISU) launched the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, which has up to £1.5 million in grants available to the winners.

The competition calls for scientists, entrepreneurs, retailers and industry figures to take up the double challenge of designing packaging that uses less plastic and is recyclable.

The prize features two elements: a circular design challenge invites applicants to rethink how products can get to the consumer without generating plastic waste like wrappers, straws and coffee cup lids; while the circular materials challenge seeks ways to make all plastic packaging recyclable.

The first winners will be announced later this year.

In a keynote speech, The Prince of Wales said: "As scientific consensus deepens on the impact of plastic waste on biodiversity, on the food chain and, dare I say it, on human health, it becomes ever more urgent that we find ways to deal with this escalating ecological and human disaster.

"With plastic being so cheap and easy to produce, it is little wonder that vast quantities flood our economy each year.

"Our ability to manage this flow, however, is struggling to keep pace and, alas, it is equally no great surprise that so much of our plastic waste is ending up in the environment.

"And because plastics are so extraordinarily durable, once they are in the environment that is where they stay, accumulating at an astonishing rate.

"This strikes me as a tragedy for two reasons. Firstly, because the loss of non-renewable resources from the system makes absolutely no economic sense; and secondly, because of the huge damage plastic pollution does to the environment, particularly the marine environment."