Novel Applications for More Recyclable Plastic Materials

51 Submissions
$25,000 USD
Due:  17th Mar 2024

Challenge overview


When you turn over a container or package, you will likely find Resin Identification Codes like #2 (High Density Polyethylene), #4 (Low Density Polyethylene) and #5 (Polypropylene). Everyday items you use or see could be converted so that they are made from these types of materials, which could help improve their potential recyclability.*

Can you identify new applications where these types of materials (called polyolefinic materials) can be used, which could help improve the products potential recyclability, help drive lightweighting efficiency gains, or offer opportunities to replace more difficult-to-recycle materials?

This Challenge is looking to revolutionize different industries by displacing incumbent materials with polyolefinic materials: for example, polyethylene (common in packaging and agriculture), polypropylene (common in the automotive industry), and others with properties that can be modified with the help of additives.

The Seeker encourages novel solutions and applications for using polyolefinic materials where their use could result in the offering of  sustainability benefits and/or a potential cost savings, without a significant drop in performance.

This is a Prize Challenge which requires a written proposal to be submitted and there will be a guaranteed award of $25,000, with at least one award of $10,000 or larger and no award being smaller than $5,000. Award distribution (or allocation) will be contingent upon the theoretical evaluation of the proposals. By submitting a proposal, the Solver grants the Seeker the right to use any information included in their proposal.

In this Prize Challenge, Solvers may:

  • Submit ideas of their own
  • Submit third-party information that they have the right to use and further, the authority to convey to the Seeker this right with the right to use and develop derivative works
  • Submit information considered in the public domain without any limitations on use

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on March 17th, 2024.

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*Recyclable in communities with programs and facilities in place that collect and recycle plastic film.



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Plastics and polymer-based materials are ever-present in our daily lives and play an important role in helping to enable modern life. These materials have found widespread use due to their adaptable qualities, durability, plasticity, relatively low expense to produce, and various benefits compared to the alternatives. The presence of plastics in modern life has helped to bring progress to society by supporting efforts to reduce food waste with high performance packaging, and improving fuel economy through lightweighting.

A 2016 study from Resource Recycling Systems and Moore Recycling Associates showed that ‘more than 60 percent of the US can access recycling programs for many plastics’. Among the study’s key findings are that a large percentage of U.S. consumers can recycle plastic tubs, containers and buckets, with 70 percent of consumers able to recycle PP tubs and containers, 69 percent able to recycle low-density polyethylene/linear low-density polyethylene (LDPE/LLDPE) tubs, 61 percent able to recycle polypropylene (PP) cups, and 60 percent able to recycle polystyrene (PS) containers. Other results show that a significant majority of Americans can recycle plastic bottles, though availability may fluctuate based on the type of plastic: 92 percent of consumers can recycle HDPE bottles, such as milk jugs.

However, the OECD estimates that only 9% of global plastic waste is currently recycled. By working together, from industry to end users, we can create a system that can help to better address end of life plastic and  help improve recycling – while all still benefiting from plastics’ critical contributions.

In many industries, essential parts of products are made up of non-polyolefinic materials. These materials, including nylon, polycarbonate, polystyrene and other styrenic polymers, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), can be used in single use applications and are currently more difficult to mechanically recycle .

The Seeker for this Challenge is exploring additional applications for polyolefinic materials, such as polyethylene or polypropylene, where they can potentially displace these more difficult to recycle materials


In existing examples of displacement (where polyolefins have already replaced more difficult to recycle materials), polyolefins can provide potential improvements in weight, recyclability, malleability of materials, and ability to function at lower temperatures.

For example, polyolefins can be used for light-weighting of materials in automotive and plane parts, particularly polypropylene.



A reason that more difficult to recycle plastics or materials may be able to be replaced with lightweight, flexible, and temperature-elastic polyolefinic materials is the performance requirements for certain applications can change over time where the current solution maybe “over engineered”. Similarly, the performance of polypropylene and polyethylene has improved over time, which may create displacement opportunities. This Challenge seeks opportunities where polypropylene or polyethylene alternatives could meet the minimum performance requirements and potentially replace other materials that may be currently “over engineered”.

As an example: Traditionally, streetlight enclosures have used polycarbonate materials (non-polyolefinic) to be compatible with the higher heat emitted from halogen bulbs used at the time. Once LED bulbs began to be used and offered lowered temperatures in streetlights, manufacturers determined that they could switch to a polyolefinic material that was equal in performance and use, but that offered the potential to more easily be recycled. Note: An opportunity where something has fundamentally changed in the market, resulting in high replacement potential, which is currently unknown to the Seeker, will likely receive the highest support during evaluation by the Seeker.

Polyolefins have also been used as replacements for other end uses such as:

  • PVC pond liners with polyethylene (PE)
  • PVC/styrenes in food packaging, bags with PE/polypropylene (PP)
  • Displacing glass in milk bottles with PE/PP
  • Replacing cement/copper/steel/PVC pipes with PE/PP
  • Replacing PET in stand-up pouches with PE/PP, due to potential improvements in PE/PP performance
  • PP has been used to light-weight a variety of automotive parts
  • PP has replaced flooring materials, such as carpet backing, to offer potential benefits of lower volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and increase filler loading
  • ABS replacement with high-gloss PP

Solvers are encouraged to submit applications for polyolefinic materials where the use case will meet or exceed these minimum requirements:

  • Temperature: the use case environment temperature needs to be below 120°F/48°C for polyethylene and below 160°F/70°C for polypropylene.
  • For further information on property ranges for different kinds of replacement materials, please view the attached document: ‘Novel Applications for More Recyclable Plastic Materials – Properties Table’ on the Challenge. If you cannot access this material, please contact us through the Challenge Message Center.

In this spreadsheet, you will be able to view public domain typical values for thermoplastic and elastomer materials, including: durability, impact properties, and tear/abrasion resistance; water/moisture resistance; chemical resistance; thermoplasticity properties; transparency; etc.



Generally, applications and uses in the medical, hygiene non-wovens, or automotive areas are likely to be known to the Seeker, and therefore will likely not meet the initial screening criteria of novelty. Material handling ideas, such as totes, pallets, or crates, will likely also be known to the Seekers and not be of interest. Solutions suggesting single-use end use applications such as utensils, bottles, packaging, or shopping bags will not be considered eligible for award in this Challenge.



IP Rights required by Seeker: Freedom to use information in all submissions

The Seeker has a very long history of looking for new applications, so novelty will be the primary screening attribute for award. In this Challenge, the Seeker is primarily interested in solutions with the potential to meet the following requirements:

Must have:

1. Property matched to its replacement material
Across the polyolefinic material range of the Seeker (polyethylene, polypropylene), there is a wide distribution of properties.
Your solution must state a use case for a polyolefinic material where the application meets or exceeds minimum property requirements as stated in the attached spreadsheet on the Challenge. For further information on property ranges for different kinds of potential replacement materials, please view the attached document: ‘Novel Applications for More Recyclable Plastic Materials – Properties Table’.

2. Minimum viability
The Seeker organization appreciates all solutions with novel applications for polyolefinic materials, however solutions must have a minimum scale and longevity to be worthwhile to operationalize. As a baseline, the quantity of polyolefins for use in replacement in your suggested solution would have to be at least 10,000 metric tons worldwide, annually, to be considered for award.

3. Network benefit
As stated, polyolefin use is only feasible where replacing materials will not have a negative effect on the desired minimum performance metrics e.g. in a product’s efficiency or usability. For example, your submission must be accompanied by a well-articulated fit-for-purpose rationale of how the replacement material would meet a sufficient level of performance to provide the existing functionality.

4. Specificity of use case
Deliverable solutions should be of a specific end use for a polyolefinic material (PE or PP), rather than stating an industry or area of interest.
For example, solutions that state ‘construction industry’ will receive less attention than those that suggest ‘replacing nylon in the XYZ area of a liner’s ABC will result in benefits of…’ etc. Utilizing the property values stated in the attached spreadsheet to guide and structure your submission is advised: for further information on property ranges for different kinds of replacement materials, please view this attached document.

Solutions with Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 1-6 are invited, with ideas about WHAT to do and concepts/solutions with HOW to achieve this – collaboration proposals about existing mature technologies and/or WHO can provide these are not of interest to the Seeker.

This is a Prize Challenge, which has the following features:

  1. There is a guaranteed award. The award(s) will be paid to the best submission(s) as solely determined by the Seeker. The total payout will be $25,000, with at least one award being no smaller than $10,000 and no award being smaller than $5,000.
  2. The award distribution will be determined after theoretical evaluation of the proposals by the Seeker.
  3. By submitting a proposal, the Solver grants to the Seeker a royalty-free, perpetual, and non-exclusive license to use any information included in this proposal.
  4. The Seeker may also issue ‘Honorable Mention’ recognitions for notable submissions that are not selected for monetary awards.
  5. Solvers may:
    1. Submit ideas of their own;
    2. Submit third-party information that they have the right to use and further, the authority to convey to the Seeker this right with the right to use and develop derivative works;
    3. Submit information considered in the public domain without any limitations on use.



Please login and register your interest, to complete the submission form.

The submitted proposals must be written in English and can include:

  1. Participation type – you will first be asked to inform us how you are participating in this challenge, as a Solver (Individual) or Solver (Organization).
  2. Solution Stage - the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of your solution, TRL1-3 ideation, TRL4-6 proof of concept, TRL7-9 production ready.
  3. Problem & Opportunity - highlight the innovation in your approach to the Problem, its point of difference, and the specific advantages/benefits this brings (up to 500 words).
  4. Solution Overview - detail the features of your solution and how they address the SOLUTION REQUIREMENTS (up to 500 words, there is space to add more in the summary field, and attach supporting data, diagrams, etc).
  5. Experience - Expertise, use cases and skills you or your organization have in relation to your proposed solution. The Seeker may wish to partner at the conclusion of the Challenge; please include a statement indicating your interest in partnering (up to 500 words).
  6. Solution Risks - any risks you see with your solution and how you would plan for this (up to 500 words).
  7. Timeline, capability and costs - describe what you think is required to deliver the solution, estimated time and cost (up to 500 words).
  8. References - provide links to any publications or press releases of relevance (up to 500 words).


Wazoku encourages the use by Solvers of AI approaches to help develop their submissions, though any produced solely with generative AI are not of interest.

Find out more about participation in Wazoku Crowd Challenges.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on March 17th, 2024.

Late submissions will not be considered.

Your submission will be evaluated by the evaluation team first reviewing the information and content you have submitted at the submission form, with attachments used as additional context to your form submission. Submissions relying solely on attachments will receive less attention from the evaluation team.

After the Challenge submission due date, the Seeker will complete the review process and make a decision with regards to the winning solution(s) according to the timeline in the Challenge header. All Solvers who submit a proposal will be notified about the status of their submissions.

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