New idea for plastic recycling process wins top prize at UW environmental competition

The first, second and third place teams will win their prize after the UW’s annual Environmental Innovation Challenge. (Photo courtesy of the University of Washington)

The University of Washington Foster School Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship hosted its annual Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) this week.

The finalists collectively received $45,000 in awards for their environmental management solutions. More than 100 judges determined the winners of the competition, including undergraduate and graduate students from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

The winner of the $15,000 Alaska Airlines Grand Prize was Catalytic Carbon, an interdisciplinary UW student group creating a solution to convert waste into carbon nanotubes and reusable hydrogen gas. The solution is aimed at increasing efficiency in recycling processes. In 2018, about 14.5 million tons of plastic ended up in landfills. The group also received a $5,000 Clean Energy Prize from the UW Clean Energy Institute for their work. The winner of the $10,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation Second Place Prize was Just Right Bite, a team of Master of Science in Entrepreneurship UW students developing pet food products from insects. The winner of the $5,000 Starbucks Third Place Prize was Arctic Biotech Oath, a team of University of Alaska Anchorage students who use microorganisms to sustainably extract rare materials. The winner of the $5,000 UW EarthLab Community Impact Prize was GardenPro, a team of UW students focused on developing more affordable and accessible gardening solutions. The winner of the $2,500 Best Idea for Climate Impact Award, sponsored by Eric Carlson, was Ultropia, a team of UW students who developed an all-in-one washing machine with a low carbon footprint. The winner of the $1,000 Connie Bourassa-Shaw Spark Award was PlantSeal, a group of UW students developing plant-based, compostable food packaging to limit industry’s current use of toxic PFA materials.

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