Scientists who have replaced plastic packaging with seaweed are among those who have been given a £1m prize by the Prince of Wales’s Earthshot fund.
The prize is aimed at rewarding innovative solutions to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies, and is named after former US president John F Kennedy’s Moonshot challenge in the 1960s, which united millions of people around the goal of putting a person on the moon within a decade.
At a star-studded ceremony in Boston, Massachusetts, Prince William announced the five winners of his award, which was launched in 2020. He and the Princess of Wales were joined by celebrities including Annie Lennox, Billie Eilish, David Beckham, Ellie Goulding and Rami Malek.
The prince told the audience: “I believe that the Earthshot solutions you have seen this evening prove we can overcome our planet’s greatest challenges. And by supporting and scaling them we can change our future. Alongside tonight’s winners and finalists, and those to be discovered over the years to come, it’s my hope the Earthshot legacy will continue to grow, helping our communities and our planet to thrive.”
One of the winners was the UK-based company Notpla, which is creating an alternative to plastic packaging from seaweed. The startup has created a natural and biodegradable plastic alternative made from seaweed and plants and can be used to create a range of packaging products, such as a bubble to hold liquids, a coating for food containers, and a paper for the cosmetic and fashion industry. The company has made more than 1m takeaway food boxes for the delivery website Just Eat, so far.
Pierre Paslier, a co-founder at Notpla, said: “No one wants to live in a world full of plastic waste but it’s not too late to act. There’s never been a greater time to use natural solutions to solve the plastic challenge.”
Another winner was a group of Indigenous women who have been monitoring the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Their project combines 60,000 years of indigenous knowledge with digital technologies to protect land and sea. The Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef programme has trained more than 60 women, who have provided scientific data as well as protecting sites of great cultural and spiritual significance.
An Oman-based company that has developed a technique to turn CO2 into rock and permanently store it underground, aiming to mineralise 1,000 tonnes of locally captured CO2 every year until 2024, also won an award.
Other projects that took home a prize included a start-up providing cleaner-burning stoves to women in Kenya to reduce indoor pollution and provide a safer way to cook, and a company providing sustainable greenhouses to farmers in India.