Thomas College Innovation Challenge
The identification of viable solutions and creative ideas to help solve the World’s Plastic Pollution Problem
To participate in the Innovation Challenge, create your team and pick up an official Innovation Challenge ‘Packet’ and Display Board in Room AD 125 in the Ayotte Center
World Creativity and Innovation Week is being celebrated the week of April 15th to April 21st. As part of this week, innovators from around the World reflect on how to solve pressing global problems. Although the World is struggling with many challenges, one of the largest challenges it currently faces is trying to come up with a solution to the global plastic pollution epidemic. Although certainly not an overnight problem, the plastic pollution problem seems to have come in full public view over the past year.
To put a sharper focus on this problem, consider the following:
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, consisting of assorted plastics and floating in the Pacific Ocean, is now “Twice” the size of the State of Texas. There are at least two other masses of considerable size floating in other oceans
- Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic finds its way into the oceans
- The US only recycles 9 percent of its plastic each year
Now clearly plastic has made our lives so much easier to live. In fact, it has revolutionized entire industries such as the automotive and home goods industry. It has made the cost of goods ranging from TVs to cell phones to computers affordable to people throughout the World for the first time. It has even saved human lives through advancements that have been made in the medical device industry. The creation of plastic has definitely had positive impacts.
However, we are now being challenged at a much higher level with how we manage the use and disposal of plastics. How we approach this will have significant and long-term impacts for generations to come, both whether we get it right or not.
Your team’s challenge is to come up with a solution to the problem. Now similar to most problems of its kind and significance, there are probably hundreds of smaller individual problems that in the collective have created the magnitude of the problem that currently exists.
As a result, your team is tasked with picking one plastic product or a grouping of plastic products (ie. water bottles, plastic bags, toiletries, etc.) that is/are part of the “short duration of use and disposal” problem and offering how it can be managed in a way whereby it can be taken out of the end waste stream so that it doesn’t find itself into one of the Earth’s oceans. Your team can also propose a solution that extracts these products out of the Earth’s oceans and waterways and reclaims them once they’re there.
Your innovative solution can be anything including a technological advancement that you propose, an alternative product or material, a creative recycling program, an economic program, a manufacturing method or any other action that would help solve the problem for that product, or grouping of products, not making it into a landfill at the end of its product life or a solution that extracts these products out of the oceans and waterways after they’ve made it into them.
The solution that you propose can be on a smaller scale, such as something focused to solve the problem at a college campus, at an office building or in a single waterway, or on a larger scale such as on a community, state or global scale.
Your team’s solution must provide a comprehensive solution; a full cycle “beginning, middle and end” solution that describes each major stage of what is being proposed. As such, it must also address how it proposes to solve the problem and how it is sustainable whether it be a for-profit, non-profit or a social entrepreneurial venture.
- Identify the plastic product or groupings of plastic products that your team will be focusing on. Your team must describe why these products currently pose a problem and how they are part of the larger plastic pollution situation. Providing valid data that can be verified back to a reliable source is highly recommended.
- Propose a solution to the problem that your team identified. Your team must describe in detail each important stage or phase of the solution for what is being proposed and how it works. There must be a “beginning, middle and end” to what your team is proposing. As such, there cannot be any “leaps of faith” either in the technology or stages of the proposed solution.
- Any proposed solution must explain how the plastic product or groupings identified will be dealt with and how the solution proposed ultimately eliminates the product(s) from getting into landfills or the waterways or extracts them once they’ve already made it into them.
Each eligible team must consist of at least two (2) individuals and no more than four (4).
All team members must be enrolled at Thomas College, either in the undergraduate or graduate program and considered full-time students in their respective category.
The winning team wins a cash prize of $200.
How to participate:
Your team must construct a physical prototype that addresses this Innovation Challenge and have it completed, without exception, and delivered to staff in the Harold Alfond® Institute for Business Innovation in Room AD-125 of the Ayotte Center by 4:00 PM on April 19, 2019.