Earlier today, the nominees of the Make it Circular Challenge were announced by What Design Can Do and its partner the IKEA Foundation. This year’s shortlist features exciting innovations that prevent waste by rethinking our way of life: from what we eat and wear, to how we build, package and buy. Representing ideas from creatives in 20 different countries, these 50 nominees will now move on to the final round of the competition. On 3 May, we’ll find out which 13 most promising projects will be crowned this year’s winners, out of a total 650 entries worldwide.

The nominated projects were determined by a Selection Committee made up of 40 design and circularity experts, including impact specialists like Mayya Saliba (Circle Economy) and Joe Iles (Ellen MacArthur Foundation), and creative heavyweights like Minnie Moll (Design Council) and Teppei Fujiwara (Fujiwalabo). After weeks of thoughtful deliberation and collaborative discussion, a list of frontrunners was put together based on the following criteria: Impact, Creativity, Feasibility, Scalability and Teamwork. In many ways, the selection is also a reflection of the kinds of issues that are facing communities when it comes to climate change, waste and pollution — and the role that designers can play in making circular ways of living more accessible to all.

I’m astounded by the sheer ingenuity exhibited by the Make it Circular Challenge nominees,” says Richard van der Laken, co-founder of WDCD. “Today, we celebrate not just the creativity of the shortlisted projects but also the collective effort worldwide to shift towards a more regenerative future.


During the Challenge open call, creatives were asked to submit ideas in at least one of five categories reflecting the key aspects or ‘value chains’ in a circular society. While the 50 nominees revealed today are divided evenly across these categories, they are born of many different strategies, disciplines and local contexts. In no particular order, here are the projects competing for the Make it Circular Challenge award package:


Projects in this category are focused on rewriting the journey from farm to fork, exploring better ways to grow, distribute, shop for, consume and process our food. The nominees include upstream interventions like Regenerating Brazil’s Farms, Agropelo, Playing With Food, Drinking Sea Water, Apidae and Landless Food, as well as end-of-the-line solutions like The Lucky Cup, La Desta, Circulr – Reuse in Grocery and The Cereal Upcyclers.


Projects in this category are focused on addressing the impacts of the fashion industry, looking at both the clothes we put on our bodies and the fibres from which they are made. The nominees range from textile innovations like Human Material Loop, Balena, Rethread Africa, Mondi Colors and Fabulous Fungi, to waste-to-resource initiatives like Africa Collect TextilesSalubataResortecs, A Blunt Story and Transformables.


Projects in this category are focused on the countless consumer goods we use every day, from furniture to toys and electronics. The nominees include new product designs like Packbags, Rest in GroundsKara, Biodegradable Sanitary Pads, and Solar Lanterns from E-Waste, as well as reuse and reshare services like Circular Experience Library, Circular Transformation Centre, AKI – Sustainable Moving, Alterist Marketplace and Extending the Life of Plastic.


Projects in this category are focused on driving change in the flawed world of packaging. The nominees range from plastic alternatives like NakedPak, Rebox.Eco, Palm Leaves Plates Ybyrá, 100% Crop Residue Packaging, Mujō and A Square Meter of Cerrado, to recycling and recirculation systems like Mobile Refill Stations, Agroplastic Community Garden, Making Recycling Scalable, and Digital Feather Tracking.


Projects in this category are focused on reimagining the built environment and looking at how we construct the places where we live, work and play. The nominees include spatial designs like The XLT Tower and Guiding the Runoff, new technologies like Urban Paper Recycling, Craft Energy Project and Royal Flush, as well as inventive materials like Eggshell Bricks, New Weave, Is the Circle Circling?, CoolBricks and Resting Reef.


Over the next few weeks, the International Jury will evaluate the shortlist and decide on 13 winners worldwide, to be announced on 3 May. The panel consists of 10 leading figures from the fields of climate, design, business, and circularity, including René van Geer (Secrid), Corinne Gray (Unreasonable Group) and Bas van Abel (Fairphone). 

The winners of the Make it Circular Challenge will take home an award package designed to strengthen their projects and set them up for long-term success. They will gain access to a six-month-long development programme which has been co-created by experts from the global Impact Hub network. Winning teams will also receive €10.000 each to invest in their project, as well as valuable press and publicity through WDCD’s channels and those of our partners. Congratulations to all participants and best of luck to the nominees!

See all nominated projects in more detail here. All 650 entries submitted to the Make it Circular Challenge will also remain available for viewing in the project gallery.