The Inter-American Development Bank Group, together with MIT Solve, launched an Open Innovation Challenge that seeks to find the most innovative solutions that will substantially reduce or eliminate single-use plastic and plastic waste in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Rethink Plastics Challenge offers the selected solutions prizes totalling US$60,000.
“With this challenge we hope to inspire people with a strong passion for developing innovative solutions to try to rethink the way we conceive plastic use,” chief of the Innovation & Creativity Division at the Inter-American Development Bank, Juliano Seabra said.
Plastics have changed industries across the globe from medicine to food and are ubiquitous in our daily lives. However, plastics have had immense adverse impacts on human and environmental health. The production of plastics from fossil fuels is the second-largest and fastest-growing contributor to industrial greenhouse gas emissions, the primary driver of climate change. Worldwide, one million single-use plastic bottles are purchased every minute and 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used each year, and only a small fraction are recovered. With the majority ending up in our environment, plastic waste leaches toxic chemicals in fresh water supplies, soil, and marine ecosystems.
The Latin American and the Caribbean region produces more than 400 million tons of plastic waste every year and 36 per cent of it is single-use plastic. This is creating economic, environmental and health problems for generations to come. How consumers, businesses, and governments reduce or eliminate single-use plastic and plastic waste is a critical development issue.
A number of countries in the region have instituted retail bans and taxes on plastic bags that have led to reductions in usage. Innovative methods of incentivising neighbourhoods have increased recycling, and mobile phone applications are helping individuals properly dispose of their garbage in the absence of formal waste collection services. Although these are promising steps in the right direction, Latin America and the Caribbean is well positioned to develop and implement new practices to substantially reduce or eliminate single-use plastic and plastic waste.
“Plastic is everywhere. It floats in our oceans and it piles in the shape of mountains; we’re already eating one credit card worth of microplastics per week. Plastic is a global emergency, and we are facing one of the biggest challenges of our times: how to help countries and communities generate a radical answer to this reality.” Seabra stated.
To reduce or eliminate the production of single-use plastic and plastic waste in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Inter-American Development Bank seeks innovative solutions that:
● Shift business models away from the use of plastics in packaging and transportation;
● Reduce single-use plastics and waste through promoting consumer behaviour change and incentivising reuse and recycling;
● Enable the public sector, especially municipalities, to pilot and implement new and innovative systems in their waste management systems.
Ten finalists will be invited to the IDB Annual Meeting in Barranquilla, Colombia, in March 2020.
The challenge offers US$60,000 in cash prizes, with a top prize of US$30,000. Additionally, the winning submissions could be considered for a pilot project financed by the IDB Group up to US$250,000.00 subject to due diligence and internal approvals. Organisations shall appoint one representative to pitch during IDB Annual Meeting. The travel and accommodation expenses for the finalists will be covered by IDB.
The Rethink Plastics Challenge is powered by the MIT Solve platform, an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that uses open innovation and crowdsourcing to solve global challenges. Through MIT’s award-winning platform, innovators, entrepreneurs and organizations, wherever they are in the world, can submit their solution to this challenge.