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PRESS RELEASE: IDB Group Launches Open Innovation Challenge to Reduce Plastic Use

Washington, DC—The Inter-American Development Bank Group together with MIT Solve launch an Open Innovation Challenge that seeks to find the most innovative solutions that substantially reduce or eliminate single-use plastic and plastic waste in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Rethink Plastics Challenge offers the selected solutions prizes totaling 60,000 USD.

Plastics have changed industries across the globe from medicine to food and are ubiquitous in our daily lives. However, plastics have had immense adverse impacts on human and environmental health. The production of plastics from fossil fuels is the second largest and fastest growing contributor to industrial greenhouse gas emissions, the primary driver of climate change. Worldwide, one million single-use plastic bottles are purchased every minute and 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used each year, and only a small fraction are recovered. With the majority ending up in our environment, plastic waste leaches toxic chemicals in fresh water supplies, soil, and marine ecosystems. 

The Latin American and the Caribbean region produces more than 400 million tons of plastic waste every year and 36% of it is single-use plastic. This is creating economic, environmental and health problems for generations to come. How consumers, businesses, and governments reduce or eliminate single-use plastic and plastic waste is a critical development issue.

A number of countries in the region have instituted retail bans and taxes on plastic bags that have led to reductions in usage. Innovative methods of incentivizing neighborhoods have increased recycling, and mobile phone applications are helping individuals properly dispose of their garbage in the absence of formal waste collection services. Although these are promising steps in the right direction, Latin America and the Caribbean is well-positioned to develop and implement new practices to substantially reduce or eliminate single-use plastic and plastic waste. 

“Plastic is everywhere. It floats in our oceans and it piles in the shape of mountains; we’re already eating one credit card worth of microplastics per week. Plastic is a global emergency, and we are facing one of the biggest challenges of our times: how to help countries and communities generate a radical answer to this reality.” said Juliano Seabra, Chief of the Innovation & Creativity Division at the Inter-American Development Bank. “With this Challenge, we hope to inspire people with a strong passion for developing innovative solutions, to try to rethink the way we conceive plastic use.”

To reduce or eliminate the production of single-use plastic and plastic waste in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Inter-American Development Bank seeks innovative solutions that:

  • Shift business models away from the use of plastics in packaging and transportation;
  • Reduce single-use plastics and waste through promoting consumer behavior change and incentivizing re-use and recycling;
  • Enable the public sector, especially municipalities, to pilot and implement new and innovative systems in their waste management systems.

Ten finalists will be invited to the IDB Annual Meeting in Barranquilla, Colombia in March 2020.

The Challenge offers 60,000 USD in cash prizes, with a top prize of 30,000 USD. Additionally, the winning submissions could be considered for a pilot project financed by the IDB Group up to 250,000.00 USD subject to due diligence and internal approvals. Organizations shall appoint one representative to pitch during IDB Annual Meeting. The travel and accommodation expenses for the finalists will be covered by IDB.

The Rethink Plastics Challenge is powered by the MIT Solve platform, an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that uses open innovation and crowdsourcing to solve global challenges. Through MIT’s award-winning platform, innovators, entrepreneurs and organizations, wherever they are in the world, can submit their solution to this Challenge.

For more information watch this video

About IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.

About MIT Solve

MIT Solve is an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that advances lasting solutions from tech entrepreneurs to address the world's most pressing problems. Solve issues four Global Challenges each year to find the most promising Solver class who will drive transformational change. Solve then deploys its global community of private, public, and nonprofit leaders to form the partnerships these Solver teams need to scale their impact. This year, Solve selected 32 Solver teams out of nearly 1,400 solutions from over 100 countries tackling four Global Challenges: (1) Circular Economy, (2) Community-Driven Innovation, (3) Early Childhood Development, and (4) Healthy Cities. Join the community at

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