The 2019 edition of the European Social Innovation Competition will reward the most innovative approaches to reducing plastic waste and improving re-use and recycling of plastic at a systemic level – but how exactly could this be done?

We believe there are a number of key areas with great potential for innovation:


Reducing the consumption of single use plastic products

Single-use plastic is embedded in our lives from bottles of water to toothbrushes and is responsible for large amounts of plastic waste. There are many products which can be made from a different and often more natural alternatives.


Recycling, reusing, and upcycling existing plastic waste

Plastics are very useful materials, there is therefore great potential for plastic waste to be utilised and put towards new uses. We need to ensure all plastic is either reusable, recycled or upcycled into something else.


Dealing with accumulated plastic waste in landfills and the environment

Even if we stop the creation of new plastic waste, we already have a huge amount in existence that isn’t going anywhere. We need new ideas and techniques for collecting, extracting and sorting this, so that the plastic waste can then be put to use.


Changing consumer behaviours, as well as retail and wider business practices to reduce levels of plastic waste or increase recycling and re-use

Where alternatives to single use plastic exist, consumers need to be incentivised to choose these more sustainable options. Similarly there is great potential for businesses to change the way they operate to encourage consumers to behave in this way.


Implementing alternative business models and optimising supply chains to reduce plastic waste or increase recycling and re-use

Many businesses were designed without factoring in sustainability, which has led to high levels of plastic waste. We need fresh approaches so that business becomes more circular, increasing levels of reuse and recycling and in turn reducing levels of plastic waste produced.


Introducing new materials fit for a circular economy or that offer sustainable alternatives to fossil-based plastics

Finally, there is great potential for the creation of entirely new materials that will reduce the need for plastic and in turn the levels of plastic waste.

Has this helped spark an idea for how you can help us in Challenging Plastic Waste? You can use our Idea Generation Kit to explore and develop your thoughts.

If you have an idea, then visit our website to enter the European Social Innovation Competition 2019. The Competition is open to anyone aged 18+ living in the E.U. or Horizon 2020 Associated Countries. All you need is an idea! All entries must be submitted online by 4th April 12:00 (midday) CET.

30 Semi-Finalists from across Europe will be chosen to receive a package of support from experienced social innovators to further the development of their ideas. Finally 3 Winners are chosen to each receive €50,000! We are looking for ideas from social innovators, entrepreneurs, students, designers, businesses, and anyone else

who wants to help challenge plastic waste. APPLY HERE



This blog post originally appeared on

 The European Social Innovation Competition is a challenge prize funded by the European Commission since 2013. It is delivered by Nesta, in partnership with Kennisland, Ashoka Spain, ENoLL and Scholz & Friends.

Keep up to date with the Competition by subscribing to our newsletter or following us on Twitter.

The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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