Seaweed ‘plastic’ startup shortlisted for Earthshot Prize

A startup founded by Imperial graduates has been named as one of the first UK finalists of the Prince of Wales’ Earthshot Prize.

Notpla, founded by Imperial alumni Pierre Paslier and Rodrigo Garcia, is among 15 contenders for one of five £1 million awards at a ceremony in December. The team has developed a seaweed-based biodegradable alternative to plastic. These were used in the 2019 London Marathon where over 36,000 edible capsules filled with Lucozade were handed out to runners.

More recently, the team have made over one million food boxes for takeaway company Just Eat. The coating of this packaging is seaweed-based, greaseproof and waterproof, biodegrading in weeks.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Pierre said: “Fourteen million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans each year. We founded Notpla when we discovered that the solution lies in our oceans too.”

Waste-free world

The team are shortlisted in the category ‘Build a Waste-Free World‘, awarded to efforts to eliminate food waste, single-use packaging and inspire a new generation of people, companies and industries to reuse, repurpose and recycle.

The prize, which was launched in 2020 by the Prince of Wales and Sir David Attenborough, awards a grant of £1 million to individuals or organisations for work to address one of the five Earthshot categories: ‘Protect and Restore Nature’, ‘Clean our Air’, ‘Revive our Oceans’, ‘Build a Waste-Free World’ and ‘Fix our Climate’.

The search for the 2022 winners started earlier this year, with Imperial named as an official nominator – one of more than 300 organisations to submit nominations across the five categories. Solutions should be tested in the field or with target audiences and be at a ‘tipping point’ for scaling their impact within the next five years.

Founded in 2014, the Notpla team met while studying Innovation Design Engineering, offered jointly by Imperial and the Royal College of Art. During their time at Imperial, they received support from Imperial Enterprise Lab and were previously based at the Imperial White City Incubator.

The second annual Earthshot Prize award ceremony will take place on 2 December in Boston. Over ten years, £50 million in prizes will be awarded by the environmental initiative.

Image credits: Sam Scales

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