Circular Design Challenge

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Circular Design Challenge Deadline: 2017-07-28
Award: $1 Million

In partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, OpenIDEO invites participants in this Challenge to apply the principles of a circular economy to rethinking the design of plastic packaging that currently ends up in landfills or in nature, and exploring new ways of getting products to people without creating plastic waste. Top ideas will be in contention to win a share of a $1M prize.

As part of the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, the Circular Design Challenge asks the question:

How might we get products to people without creating plastic waste?

The Circular Design Challenge seeks to catalyse innovation and help to advance the development of new packaging formats and/or delivery models that can be alternatives to the ones used today. The Challenge targets small-format items – which make up 10% of all plastic packaging – and include things like sauce and shampoo sachets, wrappers and tear-offs, straws, take-away coffee cup lids and bottle caps. These items generally don’t get recycled, either because they are so light and small they get filtered out in automated sorting processes, or because they are not worth the effort to be collected and sorted manually.

Small-format packaging items like sachets, wrappers, straws, lids or tear-offs make up 10% of all plastic packaging, but they are the hardest to recycle. Their design makes them prone to escape collection systems and end up in the environment, causing widespread damage across the globe. Even when collected, their small format means they have a low value, which means that they become turned into new materials.

This can be witnessed in emerging markets where small-format packaging items are unlikely to be picked up by the informal sector. And even if sometimes collected in more automated systems, their small size means that these items often get filtered out and end up in landfill, where they are still prone to leak into the environment, or get incinerated.

To challenge this status quo, the Circular Design Challenge aims to stimulate the development of design ideas that will bring us one step closer to creating a plastics system that works.

We are eager to see radical conversations and unexpected collaborations emerge from this effort. Opening this topic to a global community with a variety of experiences, cultural backgrounds, and areas of expertise holds rich learning opportunities and the potential for real and lasting impact.

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