Cue the fanfare and break out the confetti: it’s time to meet the 13 winners of the Make it Circular Challenge! Organised by WDCD in partnership with the IKEA Foundation, this global design competition was launched last October with the goal of finding—and supporting—some of the world’s most promising circular innovations and enterprises. Selected from hundreds of entries worldwide, this year’s winners represent 13 exciting visions for a restorative and regenerative future, from seaweed packaging to waste-based textiles and upcycling marketplaces. All winning teams will now take home an award package designed to bring their projects to the next level.
Besides a prize fund of €10.000 each, the winners of the Make it Circular Challenge will also gain access to a six-month-long development programme which has been co-created by specialists from the global Impact Hub network. Here they will receive the expert mentorship, guidance and tools they need to grow their businesses and expand their impact on the world. Determining which of the 50 incredible nominees had the most potential—and would best benefit from this development programme—was a task which fell to our International Jury.
The star-studded panel featured 11 influential figures in circular design and entrepreneurship, including Bas van Abel (Fairphone), Corinne Gray (Unreasonable Group), Arthur Huang (Miniwiz) and Tamara Streefland (Built By Nature). In the end, the final list of winners was put together during a series of online and in-person review sessions, based on the official competition criteria, as well as in-depth discussions on the key challenges and opportunities in building a circular society.
“This year’s selection process was very competitive,” says WDCD’s co-founder and creative director Richard van der Laken. “Not just because there were so many engaging and innovative ideas—but also because we recognise how urgent and complex the circular transition really is. The winning projects reflect this in their diversity and vision, and I’m looking forward to seeing the impact they’ll have, both individually and together.”
Jury members during the final review session on 24 April 2023. Photo: Anisa Xhomaqi.
MEET THE WINNERS
In the Make it Circular Challenge Brief, we asked creative entrepreneurs worldwide to come up with circular products, services, spaces and systems that would help us tackle the root of the climate crisis. Participants were encouraged to submit their projects in one of five categories, representing key value chains and industries like consumer goods, packaging or food. The 13 winning projects are divided loosely among these categories, but also closely relate to the 3 fundamental aspects of circular design.
The first is all about designing things that last and learning to think about products in terms of its entire lifecycle. This approach can be seen in projects like Alterist Marketplace, a community-led platform for upcycled products, and Balena, a new kind of bioplastic that is both durable and compostable. The second approach is a matter of working with nature and bringing about a more-than-human approach to design. This was a particularly popular strategy used by winners like Mujō (biodegradable packaging made from seaweed), Apidae (a system of breeding boxes for pollinating insects) and CoolBricks (bio-stabilized bricks made from cow-dung). Lastly, there were also projects that focused on reuse and recovery, looking at how we can create new value out of discarded or neglected materials that already exist. This includes Resortecs, a startup that is developing solutions for textile disassembly and recycling, and Guiding the Runoff, an adaptive reuse and urban renewal project in Tijuana, Mexico.
THE FULL LIST
SUBMITTED BY: EMILE SMEENK (Netherlands)
Recyclable bricks made using fresh cow dung that can provide affordable and safe housing solutions for low-income families.
SUBMITTED BY: LORETA CASTRO (Mexico)
An urban renewal project that is transforming a once debris-filled ravine on the outskirts of Tijuana into a vibrant public space.
SUBMITTED BY: RUPA MALIREDDY (INDIA)
Craste innovates 100% tree-free packaging solutions out of readily available crop residue, using patent-pending circular fibre technology.
SUBMITTED BY: JUNI SUN NEYENHUYS (GERMANY)
A biomaterial innovation company developing biodegradable packaging materials from a renewable resource: kelp.
SUBMITTED BY: Hannah Standen (United Kingdom)
An online marketplace for upcycled products, fueled by a community of designers who add value to existing garments and materials.
SUBMITTED BY: tunahan kafa (Turkey)
Nivogo uses cutting-edge technology to run the largest garment renewal and refurbishment centre in Eastern Europe.
SUBMITTED BY: kristin kagetsu (KENYA)
Producing completely biodegradable sanitary pads made from banana fibre, one of India’s most abundant and absorbent natural fibres.
SUBMITTED BY: tom dietel (Germany)
Making nearly any water drinkable with a globally designed and locally produced Open Source purification device.
SUBMITTED BY: gabriel calvillo (mexico)
Designing a system of objects for breeding Meliponini bees, as an example of circular interspecies collaboration.
SUBMITTED BY: malu luecking (hungary)
Exploring the potential of microalgae to regenerate extinct flavour families and revive culinary traditions.
SUBMITTED BY: dalia diamond (israel)
A durable, flexible and bio-based plastic alternative that is wholly biodegradable in an industrial composting environment.
SUBMITTED BY: annamaria de gersem (Belgium)
Resortecs is an award-winning start-up that develops solutions for textile disassembly and recycling.
SUBMITTED BY: charles oyamo (kenya)
Creating a circular economy for textiles by turning agricultural waste into a new type of biodegradable and soil-enriching fabric.
SELECTED BY SECRID
From the winning projects, our partner Secrid has selected three to award with additional press and support: Resortecs, Balena and Mujō. They do this as part of their Impact Fund programme, in which Secrid pledges 1% of its revenue to bring designers together and support their efforts to create products that improve the natural and social balance of the planet. Secrid supports three winning projects to accelerate the next generation of designers and drive change in our industries.