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Turning the Tide on Plastic Waste

The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge, a key component of National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures’ partnership to reduce plastic waste, asks problem solvers from around the globe to develop novel solutions to tackle the world’s plastic waste crisis.

More than 9 million tons of plastic waste end up in our oceans each year, and without interventions, this number is expected to almost double to 17 million tons per year by 2025. The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge focused on three strategic ways to address this growing crisis: designing alternatives to single-use plastic, identifying opportunities for industries to address plastic waste throughout supply chains, and effectively communicating the need for action through data visualization. 

The winners of the 2019 Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge were recognized for their work in addressing the global issue of plastic pollution by providing alternatives to single-use plastic products, encouraging businesses to adopt a sustainable circular economy approach and developing visualizations to depict the issue of plastic pollution to catalyze action. Find out more about this year’s winning teams.

Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge Tracks

The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge focused on three diverse tracks for addressing the growing plastic crisis: 

Designing alternatives to single-use plastic. 

Circular Economy
Identifying opportunities for industries to address plastic waste throughout supply chains.

Data Visualization
Effectively communicating the need for action through data visualization.



Design Track

The Design Track of the Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge identified pragmatic, investable solutions to improve food and beverage packaging and containers. Teams competed in the following categories: Food Packaging, Beverage Containers, or Wild Card. 


Circular Economy Track

The Circular Economy Track challenged teams to develop scalable business models and technology solutions, applicable across industries, to reduce plastic packaging waste and encourage the reuse and repurposing of plastic alternatives instead of discarding them after one use. Teams competed in the following categories: Business Model or Technology Solution. 


Data Visualization Track

The Data Visualization Track challenged teams to represent a relevant, credible data set related to the global challenge of plastic waste as a data visualization, as a tool to effectively communicate the need for action on this important issue.

The Plastic Problem

Sky Ocean Ventures and National Geographic have joined forces in the fight to eradicate the destructive impact of plastic waste in the world’s oceans. Sky Ocean Ventures was launched in March 2018 with a £25 million cornerstone commitment from Sky and the objective of seeking out investment opportunities in start-up innovation businesses that can help solve the ocean plastic waste crisis. The National Geographic Society is bringing together its global network of scientists and academics to support the fund’s vision, along with a financial commitment focused on activity that aligns with its mission, values, and objectives.

Planet or Plastic?

Planet or Plastic?  

We depend on plastic. Now we’re drowning in it. Learn what else National Geographic is doing to address the plastic waste crisis.

Sky Ocean Ventures

Sky Ocean Ventures  

Sky Ocean Ventures is a media-powered impact investment fund that’s accelerating ideas to solve the ocean plastic crisis.

Meet the Winners

Three teams from Chile, France, and Germany have been announced as the winners of the National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge. Selected from an impressive group of nearly 300 teams from around the world, the winners received prize money to implement their ideas to reduce the amount of single-use plastic reaching the ocean.  

Photograph by Justin Hofman, National Geographic ; Mohamed Abdulraheem, Shutterstock (Design Track) ; Photograph by GCShutter, Getty Images (Circular Economy Track) ; Hero Images, Getty Images (Data Visualization Track) ; Randy Olson, National Geographic (Planet or Plastic?) ; Jing Cai/EyeEM (Courtesy Sky Ocean VentureS) ; Danita Delimont, Getty Images (More Ways to Make a Difference)