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With plastics here to stay, how could you help create a circular economy that works?

Posted on Jun 8, 2017 8:29:00 PM

ElleHow could you get involved in the initiative looking to create a plastics system that works?n MacArthur first came to fame after she broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe. The 73 day trip made her confront some important issues in our ‘throw-away’ society. Complete self-sufficiency became the driving force for the launch of her foundation which is devoted to promote the circular economy. In 2010 the Ellen MacArthur Foundation was established as a registered charity to inspire a generation to re-think, re-design and build a positive future applying the thinking of a circular economy. Similarly, OpenIDEO shares the same values as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation so together they have launched the Circular Design Challenge which seeks to inspire creative design solutions for plastic packaging. The winning design will be the most appropriate package made from the environment and designed to stay in the environment.

"Plastics are here to stay and their demand is expected to double in the next 20 years."

This is a concept much larger than just recycling, but maintaining the value for everything we use for as long as possible. OpenIDEO ( @OpenIDEO ) believes that we need to fundamentally rethink the way we make, use and re-use plastics so that it avoids becoming waste to begin with. The Challenge targets small-format item which make up ten percent of all plastic packaging which included things like sauce and shampoo sachets, wrappers, straws, take-away coffee cup lips and bottle caps. It is very often the case that none of these can be recycled. As a result, their design makes them prone to escape collection systems and end up in the environment.

For this reason, the Circular Design Challenge aims to stimulate the development of design ideas to bring us one step closer to creating a plastics system that works.

Why get involved?

It is a fairly obvious fact that our plastic system is broken with only 14 percent of products being recycled, especially as most plastic items are only used once before they are thrown away.

Ten companies will each receive $10,000 each for their early-stage ideas. While being able to present a compelling case, the ideas are likely in an early stage and still have some ground to cover to larger scale prototyping or piloting. Winners will be selected by community driven evaluation in collaboration with experts from the judging panel.

A further three companies will be able to win awards of $100,000. In this category the ideas would need to be more advanced and operate within a legal structure. A significant amount of prototyping and some piloting has likely taken place before or during the Challenge, and the most advanced ideas have the opportunity of winning $200,000 each if a viable business model has been developed and begun to scale up operations.

 

A solution could target one or several of these use cases, and could for example work by eliminating the need for small-format packaging that cannot be recycled, or where redesigned formats enable packaging that is economically viable for recycling and not prone to escape into the environment.

A solution could target one or several of these use cases, and could for example work by eliminating the need for small-format packaging that cannot be recycled, or where redesigned formats enable packaging that is economically viable for recycling and not prone to escape into the environment. For example, the invention of the stay-on tab for aluminium cans in the 1970’s - this redesigned the total recyclability without fundamentally changing the drinking experience. 

However, the following solutions are not in scope:

  • Strictly end-of-pipe solutions such as novel collection systems, unless they are an integral part of a redesigned format/delivery model/system
  • Re-design of large packaging items or other packaging that is already widely recycled (even though in some regions still with low recycling rates, such as beverage bottles)

Plastics are here to stay and their demand is expected to double in the next 20 years so start innovating now to improve tomorrow.

Visit the OpenIDEO website to find out about more challenges:https://openideo.com/?_ga=2.118135566.667111532.1496921136-62824361.1496921136 


For more stories linked to the circular economy you might like:

How TV recycling has inspired Unilever to tackle sachet packaging waste.

A new industry collaboration hopes to drive the circular economy using sustainable chemistry.

Developing the packaging products needed to grow the circular economy.

More plastic than fish in oceans by 2050; report urges circular economy response.

Why recycle when you can upcycle? A sustainability trend in focus.

 

Topics: BBWNFeatures

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About the Author

Emily O'Dowd
Emily O'Dowd
On graduating with a degree in English Literature at Royal Holloway University of London, Emily joined the editorial team. When she isn't writing articles for the website or interviewing experts in th...read more