Adoption of circular economy thinking in design facilitates the optimization of material inputs and the reduction of waste during the use, pre- and post-use phases of a product or package’s lifecycle. Key principles that reduce and eliminate the waste from new and existing products include the use of renewable resources or by-products as opposed to virgin, non-renewable materials; light weighting of goods and packaging including food cans and glass and plastic bottles; the use of re-usable packaging (primary and secondary); bulk dispensing of consumables and design for disassembly which supports re-use and re-manufacture.

For the full potential of these approaches to be realized consideration must also be given to the processes which support the production, distribution, consumption and eventual disposal of products and materials. Hence, the challenge of designing out waste is not limited only to designers but rather extend to include actors throughout the value chain and cross-sectors; engineers, manufacturing plant managers, retailers, procurement and contract managers and so on. For an easy checklist of design principles, click here.

Initiatives to date include the design portfolio Celebrating Canadian design for waste prevention and systems-thinking, where an external review panel vets products and packaging that have excelled in designing out waste. In 2015 – 2016, the focus is on clarifying the murky field of compostable products and packaging. White papers and webinars help clarify terms, best practices and more.