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Creative ideas for a circular economy


Students at a London arts college have pioneered a range of new products and concept ideas to show how plastics can be used within the circular economy.

Final year students from Central Saint Martins (CSM) – working to a brief pulled together by London-based innovation agency Studio INTO – and with support from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation throughout the project, showcased their innovations at last week’s CSM graduate show.

It was a creative display of fresh thinking to what is a major global challenge. The products and concepts included things like water-based vegetable packaging, sustainable soap dispensers, coffee cups made from bamboo fibres, organic containers for take-away food and a clever approach to feminine hygiene products – to name just a few.

Nathalie Jerming-Havill, senior creative strategist at Studio INTO, said: “We’ve worked on social innovation projects with design students for a couple of years, facilitating projects that foster creative talent and focus on design that has a real-world impact. The brief we developed with EMF challenged the students to develop new approaches to using plastic that cause less environmental impact. We gave the students the freedom to fundamentally re-think all aspects of plastic packaging and inspired them to think outside the box – on an environmental, social and business level.”

Students received guidance from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an organisation that exists to facilitate and support the global shift to a circular system. It is spearheading a number of initiatives to replace the linear ‘take, make and dispose’ model with a circular framework. Its New Plastics Economy platform leads the movement for revolutionising the plastics industry – to find sustainable solutions to a situation where a paltry 14% of plastics are currently recycled.

Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, added: “Globally only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling and most plastic packaging is used only once before being discarded. We need to find alternative ways of getting products to people without generating plastic waste. Our project with CSM is exciting because a new generation of creative minds has applied circular economy thinking to help create a plastics system that works: a circular economy for plastics.”


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