• The Circular Design Challenge, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and hosted by OpenIDEO, is calling upon a global community to submit ideas, innovations, and new technologies with the potential to transform the plastics economy.


    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.


    Winning ideas will be awarded a share of a $1 million prize. 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.


    Participants are encouraged to collaboratively share data, stories and insights during the Research Phase, and post solutions and share prototypes during the Ideas Phase. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation, OpenIDEO, and an Advisory Panel of industry experts will create a shortlist of submitted ideas that will move on to the Refinement Phase. During the Refinement Phase all submissions are encouraged to continue progressing, while the shortlist represents the lightbulb and moonshot moments that are most active and aligned with our Evaluation Criteria. After an iterative Refinement phase, the Top Ideas from the Challenge will be announced – a set of solutions that represent innovation and impact in the topic area.


    The Circular Design Challenge, funded by Wendy Schmidt, has two categories:

    1. Ideator’s Award: In this category, they look forward to award the best community driven, collaborative ideas developed on the platform. Winners will be selected by community driven evaluation in collaboration with experts from the judging panel.
      • Early-Stage ideas: $10,000  (up to ten awards of $10,000 each).
    2. Future of Plastics Design Award: In this category, they expect to see more advanced ideas, developed by experienced teams or individuals, which have been exploring the Challenge issues for 12 months or more, and operate with a legal structure (e.g. llc, partnership).
      • Mid-Stage Ideas: $100,000 (up to three awards of $100,000 each)
      • Advanced Ideas: $200,000 (up to three awards of $200,000 each)


    More information at OpenIDEOOpenIDEO partners with leading organizations to drive collaboration, innovation and impact around the world’s toughest problems, through launching challenges, programs and other tailored experiences. A Challenge is usually a three to five month collaborative process that focuses our attention on a specific issue and creates a space for community members to contribute, refine and prototype solutions.

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