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Emerging materials, makers and tactical delivery: Transforming packaging, one 'Capsule' design district at a time

Emerging materials–biodesigned substitutes for plastic–are paired with tactical delivery, to be funded and deployed together in districts.

Photo of Purva Chawla
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Banana peel-based 'bioplastic'; packaging made of Sugar beet pulp; Food-preserving bowls composed of crystallized salt and fabric-like packaging labels made of fruit and vegetable waste. These emerging materials and objects today have been designed to substitute plastic, and are ripe for use in small-format packaging.

While these innovative materials and prototypes exist, they are scattered across the globe, being created by young designers and makers who often lack the funding, infrastructure, and environment to both develop and deploy them at a large scale. This has prevented them, till now, from becoming scalable solutions and feasible substitutes for the role played being played by plastic in delivery and consumption.

What if we create small, 'Capsule' design districts, where food, beverages, toiletries, condiments and more–brought to the site in bulk, or produced in-situ– are packaged exclusively in these emerging, sustainable materials? And then delivered tactically, and locally?

  • The short-range delivery and rapid, local consumption of these packaged items would align with the current abilities of many of these emerging (bio-based) materials, which are not yet geared to extremely long shelf lives, or long storage periods).

  • At the same time, these small districts–using small packaging and parts such as bottle caps created locally (at design studios and workshops)– make for the right environment and incubator for these emerging materials to be rolled out and developed further. They can then become viable, long-term substitutes for plastic, and begin to be used in a widespread way, beyond the borders of a small district, armed with the added support of public interest and engagement.

  • This model leverages the talent, and abilities of a small unified design district in adopting and rolling out innovative, new materials, tapping into existing networks to deliver and consume locally, and create an incubator for the large-scale development of plastic-substitutes.

Idea Title

Emerging materials, makers and tactical delivery: Transforming packaging, one 'Capsule' design district at a time

Company / Organization Name



Where are you / your team located?

London, UK.

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

This model substitutes the need for unrecyclable plastic items, by creating packaging such as bottle caps, lids, sachets entirely from emerging biodegradable 'plastic substitutes,' and deploying them in a small, but complete system. For example, Banana peel-based bio plastic bottle caps would have to be used at all cafes and restaurants in an individual district (and within a short shelf-life), centered around local makers of the banana-plastic and his/her workshop/studio and shared delivery.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Use Cases 1 and 2. These use cases are best suited for the deployment of emerging, particularly bio-based materials in small-format packaging and its delivery.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

London. 'Design districts' like Clerkenwell, Brixton, or Hackney currently operate fruitfully in London. Packed with makers and their infrastructure, they are equipped to accept such a new model and attitude to packaging and plastic waste.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

I see this model starting out with the partnership of the following: One or two emerging material innovators, a local packaging maker, a small batch-maker of beverages or food etc, 4-5 restaurants and cafes (as consumers) and finally a shared delivery provider common to them all–all within a very small (design-driven) locality. Growing outwards from this capsule, I see the model replicating across the city, these new-material deploying districts begin to get larger and then overlap each other.

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.

Being a part of the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program, or being a Top Idea would provide us with the technical expertise, knowledge support, and feedback to turn this model into a working mechanism for London's design districts–especially a model that is financially viable for the all the businesses involved. The program would help us achieve bringing all the varied stakeholders to the table, and turn this from a small district initiative into a city-wide, globally-replicable model.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

At MaterialDriven, we work with talented young designers and material-makers daily. Many of them struggle to make their ideas scalable or applicable for projects, despite being extremely innovative and future-proof. A majority of these incorporate circular design and digest or eliminate waste (including plastic). We strive to link them with the support they need and showcase their innovation. So the idea for this challenge is a part of that effort–capitalizing and leveraging that innovation.

Tell us about your work experience

As founder of an education platform and consultancy and an architect, my work is the intersection of design, materials, entrepreneurship, and innovation. I help incubate the work of material-makers.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

We currently work as a Sole Proprietorship, with several employees, contributors and project-based partners and collaborators.

1 comment

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Hi Purva,

The Ideas Phase of the challenge closes TONIGHT at 11:30 p.m. PT. Your post is currently unpublished, in draft mode. In order to be eligible for evaluation, your post must be published on the platform.

We'd love to have it be included in the challenge. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. Thanks!