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Environment Secretary welcomes new initiative that brings together industry leaders to collaborate on plastic pollution

An innovative Plastic Hackathon is taking place tomorrow (Saturday 9 February 2019), bringing together sustainability experts, big businesses, scientists, students and young people to collaborate in the urgent search for scalable solutions to help tackle the global challenge posed by plastic pollution. It has been developed by sustainability campaigner Dhruv Boruah in conjunction with Imperial College London, where the event will be hosted.

UK Government Environment Secretary Michael Gove has welcomed this new initiative.

He said: “It’s great to see students and industry leaders are being inspired to join the fight against plastic waste during the Government’s Year of Green Action. “Eliminating avoidable plastic waste is a part of our landmark 25 Year Environment Plan, but we cannot do it alone. This is a fine example of collaboration to help leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it for future generations.”

Dhruv Boruah, creator of the Plastic Hackathon, says he is encouraged by the UK Government’s support and participation in his initiative which aims to create greater open collaboration and coordination to ensure solutions are found to the mounting problem.

He said: “The increase in initiatives tackling plastic, sustainability and the environment is a step forward to the ever-growing problem posed by the world’s obsession with plastic, but we also need to ensure collaboration across the entire value chain and common standards.

“While competition can help to drive innovation, it can also hold back progress towards the common good. Besides, today there is a communication gap across the entire value chain and to achieve a true circular economy, we have to engage with everyone from product design to retail and waste management. That’s why we are striving to bring together such a diverse range of participants to pool their collective expertise and ideas.”

The Plastic Hackathon will bring together over a hundred high profile participants who are all experts in their own fields and work for major brands and organisations. Founding Partners sponsoring the Plastic Hackathon are Just Eat, M&S, UK Circular Plastics Network/Innovate UK and the event is being hosted and created in collaboration with Imperial College - Dyson School of Engineering Design. Other delegates come from diverse businesses such as Unilever, Pret A Manger, USB Asset Management, Made in Britain, Veolia and Sustainable Ventures.

One of the major brand participants is Just Eat, a leading global marketplace for takeaway food delivery. As a sponsor and attendee of the event, Just Eat will be supporting hackers to come up with viable business solutions via the challenges set.

Robin Clark, Director of Business Partnerships & Restaurant Services at Just Eat said:

“As a market leader in online food delivery, we want to drive environmentally-friendly behaviour and reduce the impact of plastic packaging. At Just Eat, we have already taken a number of measures to reduce the amount of plastic used across the sector and the Plastic Hackathon is an excellent opportunity to stimulate new ideas that could help in tackling plastic pollution. We’re pleased to be supporting the event and we’re look forward to seeing the development of innovative solutions.”

Also, sponsoring and attending the event is M&S; the leading UK retailer will be supporting the teams with their experience in key challenge areas to help to identify viable solutions. Roger Wright, Packaging Technologist Lead at M&S Clothing & Home said:

“At M&S, our goal is to only use plastic where there is a clear benefit. We’re doing everything we can to reduce our use of plastic packaging and replace it with planet friendly alternatives, while ensuring any we do use can be easily recycled. The Plastic Hackathon presents a brilliant opportunity for us to share our approach to plastics and be inspired by innovative solutions from a pool of experts in the packaging industry and beyond. We believe a collaborative approach will help us go further and faster to tackle some of our biggest challenges in plastics in the future.”

At this weekend’s Plastic Hackathon teams will be challenged to find alternatives to current plastic packaging, focusing on a reuse and refill model, where they will be asked to design solutions that promote the reuse of plastic or ultimately reducing the amount of plastic used in packaging relevant to five areas:

  • Grocery packaging
  • Grab and go food
  • Takeaway meals
  • Internet shopping
  • Personal care items

At the end of the day, the teams will pitch their ideas to an expert panel of key industry representatives, entrepreneurs and impact investors. The most promising concepts that come out of the Plastic Hackathon will be developed further with a view to ultimately engage brands in trials.

Sally Beken, Programme Manager for the UK Circular Plastics Network, Innovate UK said:

“I'm really pleased to be sponsoring the Hackathon. Finding user-centric solutions to our plastic waste problem is key to reducing future waste. This is a priority area and we are encouraging research and investment to develop new innovative solutions. The Plastic Hackathon is an excellent initiative to bring together a broad cross-section of knowledge, skills and creativity to develop new approaches. We look forward to assessing and potentially funding some of the concepts that emerge.”

Leila Sheldrick, Head of Global Innovation Design, Imperial College London, said:

“I’m excited to host the Plastic Hackathon at Imperial College this weekend. Our students are trained to work across disciplines to bring ideas together and realise impactful solutions. Working with the guest experts visiting us on the day, they are perfectly placed to drive forwards idea development, and take the concepts into the real world.”
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