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Design for Circular Economy: Exploring the Circular Product Design for Packaging Industry

With our non-renewable resources getting limited increasingly and environment becoming deteriorated gradually, there is a growing need to design and manufacture product-associated packaging in a more sustainable way, e.g. the Circular Economy approach with a clear and strong intention to support a new generation of businesses towards a more efficient and sustainable industrial ecosystem. However, the current practice for packaging industry is still primarily linear. Regulators and advisory parties have urged to substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. World leading companies in consumer goods industry e.g. Unilever and Danone have thus set stretching targets for 2025 to realise every piece of packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable. ‘Circular’ starts from product design through to consumer use, reuse and/or recycled which requires to fundamentally rethink the way when design packaging, by taking into consideration the systems in which the products flow. The key to achieve this is to reinvent a new eco-design mind-set and principles for packaging towards the concept of circular economy, especially considering the symbiotic relationship between design and material selection.


Collaborated with the University of Sheffield (Co-I) and University of Cambridge, this research project therefore aims to investigate the state-of-the-art packaging design for a circular economy, focusing on plastics and exploring the current practice in designing packaging that uses less plastics and environmentally sustainable plastics. The research outcome would be expected to drive the development of packaging design knowledge and accelerate the transition from a linear to a circular economy of packaging, as well as enable appropriate design and use of plastics to achieve a more positive environmental impact, towards creating a packaging system that is truly circular by design.

Dr Wei Liu
(Principal Investigator)
School of Engineering and Applied Science 
Aston University 

Dr Wei Liu is Senior Lecturer in Design at Aston University and the founding director of MSci Design, Enterprise and Innovation, the first programme of its kind in the UK. As an experienced educator, she is recognised as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Before joining Aston, she conducted academic research on design studies in the UK (Cambridge), US (Harvard) and China (Tsinghua & Tongji) with research interests including Design for Circular Economy, Design for Advanced Manufacturing, and Product Design and Development Management. She has a rich experience of conducting interdisciplinary research and obtained research funds from EPSRC, NSFC and other prestigious funding bodies to promote collaborations across subjects, as well as won grants from RAEng and MNCs to promote cooperation between industries and academia. Her research outputs have been published in the leading design, additive manufacturing and product development management journals such as The Design Journal, 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, Rapid Prototyping Journal and International Journal of Product Development.

She is also a professional designer and even worked in the internationally renowned consultancies (TEAMS Design, BCG and IBM) where she led design projects and developed products for world leading brands (e.g. Siemens). She was awarded ‘Top 100 Designers of China’ from Dragon Design Foundation in 2017.

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