Rethink how we protect marine conservation and cultural areas from plastic pollution.

December 2021: Key Findings from the white papers are available in a new PDF. This document includes: 1) a synthesis of all the findings of the white papers, including a table that divides them by stakeholder groups, and 2) a summary of each paper’s major findings and recommendations.

Advances toward solutions for marine plastic pollution in southern California: Key recommendations of the white papers produced during the 2021 Scripps-Rady Ocean Plastic Pollution Challenge

October 2021: Check it out! Results from the Challenge are featured in ECO Magazine's special issue on marine pollution | Mobile link | Desktop link

October 2021: Winning team SD Zero has launched a new website to build support for their ordinance for plastic-free events in San Diego. Show your support!

September 2021: Challenge white papers are available to view/download (here)

June 2021: The inaugural Challenge has wrapped, congratulations to the winning team and runner-up of the Finale! Read more below.

About the Challenge

The Scripps-Rady Ocean Plastic Pollution Challenge is a unique 6-month accelerator program focused on identifying effective, evidence-based approaches that will curb the flow of plastic into the ocean, with a specific focus on marine conservation and marine cultural preservation areas along California’s coast. The inaugural program ran January - June, 2021, and participants engaged in a series of virtual short courses, team-based research, and a final two-day challenge to pitch solutions to an expert panel.

This program is a partnership between the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Center for Social Innovation and Impact (CSII) at the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego.

We are working towards systemic solutions that end the plastics problem, not just clean up the problem that exists today. This requires a focus on upstream solutions to reduce plastic production and reduce the generation of plastic waste. This program is bringing together multidisciplinary expertise that will build a systems perspective of the plastic pollution problem, and spark innovative and thoughtful ideas and strategies.

About the Winning Proposals & Teams

On June 8, 2021, five incredible teams pitched proposals that would make a significant impact in curbing the flow of plastic into the ocean in San Diego, Calif.  Teams had been given less than 3 days to develop the pitches in this hackathon-style challenge, however this finale was the culmination of six months of intensive work.

Each team combined the new knowledge they had gained from this accelerator program with their own expertise and perspectives to come up with innovative ideas. We are pleased to congratulate both the winning team: 'SD Zero', and the runner-up: 'Plastic Free SD'!


Challenge components
The Scripps-Rady Ocean Plastic Pollution Challenge will emphasize the application of several strategies to address gaps in finding effective solutions, such as changing human behavior, evaluating solutions, and data mapping. This multi-stage program provides skills in solving complex problems, space for participants to build a systems perspective of the plastic pollution problem, and interdisciplinary teams to develop new strategies. There are three main components to the program: short courses; team research; and a two-day challenge.

Short courses

January - February, 2021

Participants engage in a series of six short courses (virtual, 1.5 hours each) led by experts in the fields of natural science, behavioral science, economics, policy, social entrepreneurship, and more.

Short courses and moderators are listed in the FAQs below!

Team research

March - May, 2021

Participants will form teams (virtual) and be supported by UC San Diego and other mentors while they investigate research questions to apply to the plastics problem in California.

Following an expert review, teams will present (virtual) their new findings to all participants to inspire new ways of thinking about solutions.


June 7 - 8, 2021

The grand event is a 2-day challenge! Participants will be placed into teams to develop innovative solutions to minimize plastic from entering the ocean and polluting specific sites within California’s marine conservation areas and marine cultural preservation areas.

Teams will pitch their ideas and proposals to an expert panel.