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Circular Design Challenge //  Additional Resources


Check out these resources to help you get started. IDEO designers created this series of research interview videos to uncover some of the needs and opportunity areas of various stakeholders within the packaging ecosystem.  

Then, take some time to explore the various tools within the Circular Design Guide


During this Webinar we answered a few key questions around themes we are seeing emerge on the platform: 

  • What are the three biggest systemic hurdles one might face when developing a sustainable solution within the packaging / plastics space?
  • What are the key material / design considerations to keep in mind when developing a “disappearing packaging” solution?
  • What needs to be considered when designing this type of solution from a systems perspective? How will material choices impact recyclability and cost?


During our second Webinar we provided insights around how to improve Ideas, specifically within themes we are seeing emerge on the platform: 

  • What are some of the key systems and/or business model considerations to keep in mind when designing new delivery methods for products (such a dispenser system)?
  • What needs to be considered when merging formats, either from a user experience or materials perspective? How will these designs impact recyclability in terms of system capacity?
  • What key questions can I ask myself to check if my business model responds to a circular economy model?


  • What seems to be the most important factors for the users in their interactions with packaging?
  • What seems to be frustrating or confusing to people and what are they doing to address it?
  • Based on what you’ve learned about small format packaging, what other types of frustrations with these items can you think of and how could they be solved?
  • To dive deeper, check out this User-Centered research method from the Circular Design Guide. It will help you understand the need of everyone involved in the use cycle of a product.


  • What are some of the main considerations from the supply chain point of view?
  • What are some of the things that the industry is working on to make plastic packaging more circular? Why do you think so much focus is still spent on larger format packaging?
  • How can a design thinking approach help address some of the system-wide issues with small-format packaging?
  • To dive deeper, check out this Interventions method from the Circular Design Guide. It will help you identify tangible opportunities and scaffold your approach.


  • What primary challenges for recyclers do you identify from the interviews?
  • How could a design rethink of small-format packaging facilitate the collection and recycling of plastics?
  • To dive deeper, check out this Flow method from the Circular Design Guide. It will help you understand what circular material flows would mean for your design.


  • Are there any similarities between the learning journeys described in the video and your own?
  • What are some common themes in the students’ thinking about how to design for circularity?
  • As a designer, what is the first thing you’d like to do to develop your idea?
  • To dive deeper, check out this Rapid Prototyping method from the Circular Design Guide. It will give you a framework to rapidly prototype solutions to the design issue you are exploring.


Thank you for submitting additional questions during the webinar. See below a couple of them with answers from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation team.

Participant Submitted Question: Could you please later give an example or a case that we've been treated the symptom instead of the cause of plastic issues?

  • Answer: Ocean plastics is the reason many people are getting engaged in the issues around the plastics economy. A lot of efforts have recently collected and converted ocean plastics to useful products (shoes, t-shirts, sunglasses). This is a great effort of course, since it takes a material from where it doesn’t belong and makes a value-added product out of it. However, these efforts don’t come close to the vast leakage of plastics into the ocean, which can only be stopped on land, through solutions that prevent plastics from becoming waste in the first place.

Participant Submitted Question: In my opinion, the maximum impact to actually make a difference can be made by better managing the existing collection systems and improving solutions for recycling (end of pipe solutions). So I want to understand the reason why these aspects are being excluded from the challenge.

  • Answer: In order to create a plastics system that works, we need to re-design plastics packaging and delivery models so that plastics do not end up as unrecyclable waste. While improved collection systems and recycling technologies are very important to capture the value that is currently left on the table (our latest report shows that such improvements creates an economically attractive case for 70% of all plastic packaging currently on the market), the grand innovation challenge lies in rethinking the 30% of plastic packaging for which there is no economically viable route. This is why we set up the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, and this is why we are calling for design solutions that focus on how we make and use plastics in this particular challenge. Improving end of pipe solutions (with a systemic perspective) is something we are also working on together with a broad range of industry stakeholders, outside of this challenge.


Seeking inspiration from nature? Those of you who are interested in using a biomimicry lens to approach their design journey can use the Scoping Guide from Biomimicry 3.8 and the associated Worksheet.   

Also, don’t miss the Learn From Nature method from the Circular Design Guide, or the AskNature resource.