Nearly 80 percent of the 450 billion pounds of plastic produced annually is not recycled. Instead, it is deposited into landfills or travels to the ocean, where it accumulates in massive garbage patches of marine litter in the world’s major ocean gyres. Marine plastic pollution is growing at a rate of 11 billion pounds each year. Plastic pollution also degrades slower in a marine environment because of the reduced exposure to UV rays and cooler temperatures. Mistaking plastic for food, marine life ingests this toxic material, which can then move through the food chain and can potentially harm humans. The production of an ocean degradable resin will help solve the ocean plastics pollution problem. It will close the carbon loop and decrease petroleum consumption and waste. It will also set strict industry standards for biodegradable resins and establish the environmentally safe degradation of plastic as an important product feature. In the end, it will save numerous marine species that often mistake plastic for food.
The winning team will create a commercial alternative to a petroleum-based plastic resin that is (1) ocean degradable, (2) developed from a renewable resource, and (3) can be produced to meet a yearly volume of 500 million pounds. An ocean degradable solution must be environmentally inert at the molecular level within six months. The winning solution must also be biodegradable, environmentally safe in both marine and terrestrial environments and safe for human use.
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