The winning team of the first Ocean Plastic Pollution Challenge proposes to ban single-use plastic at major events

To tackle the daunting task of reducing the flow of plastic into the ocean, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego selected a winner of the inaugural Ocean Plastic Pollution Challenge during an online ceremony on June 8th.

Team SDZero, whose plan for the City of San Diego is to change its policy to ban single-use plastics at major events, received top honors and will meet with mentors to try to implement the idea.

The Ocean Plastic Pollution Challenge kicked off in January as an accelerator program that focused on identifying effective, evidence-based approaches to contain the flow of plastic into the oceans, with a particular focus on marine and cultural reserves along the California coast. Twenty-nine finalists (from a pool of more than 300 applicants) took a series of short virtual courses, conducted research to fill gaps in plastic problem solving, such as political solutions and human behavior, and entered a final two-day competition Challenge to present possible solutions in front of a jury of experts.


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In an introductory video, Challenge Co-Director Ayelet Gneezy said, “One of the challenges of working on the problem of plastic pollution is that the more you learn about it, the more overwhelming it can be. So you can tell how big the problem is, how much it was already [tried] to contain it, which can be extremely overwhelming for anyone, especially someone trying to fix a problem. … It was important to us to find the right people. “

The challenge was attended by students from UC San Diego, alumni, community partners, and ocean guides from 10 states and five countries. In five teams, they worked out five different proposed solutions.

With the win, Team SDZero received a coaching session with Gwen Nero, Scripps Oceanography’s Director of Corporate Affiliates, Business Development, Industry Outreach and Innovation, to discuss strategies for the winning proposal.

Team SD Zero officials said they are proposing a policy change for the city that uses the influence of events to ban single-use plastics at major events. The intent is to start small to prove the concept and refine the implementation, and then expand to other events and hospitality companies. The events would have to be free of single-use plastic or the organizers would pay a fine and continue to educate themselves. Financial support would be available through a business accelerator program to help host organizations transition to the new mandates.

Nero called the proposal “elegant” and said: “You have proposed a policy change that aligns with the existing municipal goals [and] offers the city a step-by-step process to make its plastic waste goals a reality. “

Other projects included the creation of a new borrowing measure to move corporate funds to address solutions on a large scale; Establish a “plastic patrol” campaign by fifth graders in local schools to reduce plastic in schools and their communities; Form a coalition to reduce plastic use with representatives from all over San Diego; and innovative sensor technology for trash and recycling bins on the area’s beaches to collect data on plastic and trash buildup.

“We were incredibly impressed with all five teams and the deliberations were intense. Each of you should be commended for your thoughtful, innovative strategies, which were developed in just 48 hours, ”Nero told attendees.

Upon hearing that Team SDZero was the winner, team member Lauren Hackney, an MBA candidate at the Rady School of Management, said, “I think we’re all a little shocked right now.”

A team member was unable to attend the ceremony because they were in London, which was 1:00 a.m. at the time.

Gneezy said the idea was not “flashy” or “overwhelming”, but rather demonstrated “an understanding of the complexity of the problem. It involves many actors, many players, many who care, some who don’t know, many who don’t know what to do about it … and instill in us the importance of having problems, especially complex problems, with a complex. approach, interdisciplinary approach. ”◆

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