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Introduce a labelling method for how circular a product's packaging is

introduction of a labelling system which uses a universal circularity indicator (such as MCI) to score packaging based on how circular it is

Photo of Martin Hyde
7 20

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By introducing a labelling / label accreditation system for how circular a product is, consumers would be able to easily identify key features such as the recyclability / GHG emissions associated with the production / disposal of a piece of packaging. We are currently able to use labelling to work out the calorific content / protein / carbohydrate levels of foodstuffs, as well as where the produce has come from, so why are we not able to see where the packaging has come from, how much of it is recycled material and how recyclable it is?

In the UK packaging labels do include information on the recyclability of the packaging, but the information is very vague and it would be helpful to see some industrial average figures around what will actually end up going to landfill.

By using the MCI Circularity indicator scores (or developing a new calculation model which includes GHG emissions to provide a “Circularity” score), and having been provided with a simple explanation as to what the figures mean, consumers would be able to avoid products packaged in unsustainable materials and encourage manufacturers / retailers to improve the “circularity” of their packaging and products.

I have not given much thought to how to present the information but I imagine a colour based system ranging from red – green would be a good way of doing it, with the circularity score highlighted as a superimposed figure.

The stages of this idea would be:

  • Research the usability of the Circularity indicator calculator / develop a new calculation tool with assistance from industry leaders and circular economy experts.
  • Develop labelling scope and spectrum for scoring, working with industry and consumer groups.
  • Seek approval from governmental bodies regarding the labelling system
  • Roll out the labelling system for a testing group

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

By labelling packaging materials which have a poor circularity score / low recyclability and high GHG emissions, consumers will be able to choose not to purchase "Un-circular" products, forcing producers and manufacturers to make changes to their products.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

All of them, by being able to determine the GHG emissions, recyclability and traceability of the packaging materials used, people would be able to make judgements around what packaging products they should purchase for use or for sale.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

to scale up my idea i would need to communicate with industry sustainability and packaging leaders (ideally in the food and drinks industry) as well as circular economy experts, and someone with a good knowledge of life cycle assessment and sustainability modelling. Major Obstacles would be manufacturer / retailer indifference and an unwillingness to take part. this could be overcome by discussing with consumers and showing that there is an interest for this method of labelling

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

becoming a Top Idea would allow me to accelerate the project with the assistance of actual experts. i am passionate about the circular economy but mi am mostly self taught and would hugely benefit from assistance from experts in the field. my major goal is to allow consumers to be more informed as to how sustainable the materials they purchase in packaging are, and therefor make more informed decisions when purchasing products.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

the idea came to my mind whilst reviewing the Ellen MacArthur Foundation methodology for Circularity Indicators as part of a Life Cycle Assessment course at UCL.

Tell us about your work experience

I trained as a Geologist at University and then moved into the environmental compliance scene. i currently work for a leading Environmental Compliance Scheme

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

with regard to this project i work on my own, my day job is with an environmental compliance scheme which is a Limited Company


Join the conversation:

Photo of Anthony Peyton

Hi Martin Hyde . We have similar passion for creating a circular world for packaging! I've included an idea in the challenge that I think complements your idea and Christel Tardif 's idea. Please visit Feedback is very welcome and I'm happy to demonstrate online if you are interested. Cheers, Anthony

Photo of Christel Tardif

Hey Martin Hyde I love your idea. We actually had some complementary idea, check The ultimate zero plastic waste ressource - both ideas could be combined as yours include the very first part of ours, going much deeper into the labelling process.

Photo of Martin Hyde

Hey Christel, Thanks very much. I have just had a look through your idea and it looks awesome. would love to have a chat about how you plan to implement the app, i am a big fan of your idea to use the app to make the database immediately accessible to those with a smart phone.

This could be an absolute game changer if it was supported by major retailers

Photo of Christel Tardif

Hey Martin, how about having a chat using zoom videoconference tool? And how about tomorrow morning, I see you are based in England. For me anytime before 12pm Paris time is ok

Photo of Martin Hyde

daytime isn't ideal for me I'm afraid, any chance you could send me a linked in message or email ?

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Martin!

Great to see you in the challenge! Interesting idea for a circular indicator labeling system. Have you seen any labeling or accreditation system that could provide some inspiration for the type of system you are envisioning?

I just want to highlight three documents for the challenge:
The brief -
Evaluation criteria -
Use cases and personas -

Is there any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there.

Looking forward to learning more!

Photo of Martin Hyde

Thanks Lauren

In terms of systems that could provide inspiration, i was thinking that something along the lines of or an adjustment to the currently utilised OPRL packaging labelling system used in the UK would be good. currently it tells you how widely recycled each packaging component is, but doesn't score it on its "recyclability". i think the addition of a system that shows the GHG emissions and the "circularity" of the components could help to demonstrate the environmental cost of each component and inform consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions.

with regard to the picture, i will try and find one that fits the idea


Kind Regards