CEBIC year 3 focus area – Design

Last updated: 1 February 2023

Design is the next circular focus area for the CEBIC.

Our focus areas allow us to direct resources to where they will have the greatest impact on waste reduction and materials productivity.

How we will support circular design

We aim to increase understanding of the many opportunities and benefits of circular design and inspire innovative solutions that accelerate our transition towards a circular economy.

We will provide support across the Victorian economy by:

  • organising and promoting events to bring designers, leaders and innovators together to share their experiences, address barriers and identify solutions
  • continue to engage key stakeholders across industries to gain further understanding of how government can best support innovation and the use of circular design
  • providing financial support through the Circular Economy Innovation Fund to empower industry to explore and implement circular design opportunities that prevent waste
  • sharing with industry best practice insights, case studies and research.

To receive regular updates on our design focus area activities as they progress, subscribe to our newsletter.

Why circular design

Our vision is a circular economy that continually seeks to reduce the environmental impacts of production and consumption, while enabling economic growth through sustainable use of natural resources.

Everything around us has been designed by someone: our buildings, products, clothes and the services we use every day to meet our needs.

When something is designed, important decisions are made that affect how things are made, used, maintained, repaired and managed. It is estimated that more than 80% of the environmental impact of a product is determined at the design stage. By making better design choices, environmental impact can be minimised and waste avoided.

The transition to a circular economy will require the redesign of our products, services, built environment, business models and systems to be able to eliminate waste and ensure that precious materials and products retain their value and can be reused, again and again.

Victoria has a strong design sector and Victoria’s design agencies enjoy global acclaim and an international client base. Geelong is designated as a UNESCO City of Design and the relevant industry associations are highly engaged.

Victoria can be a global leader in circular design. We want to support Victorian businesses, universities, local governments and community organisations to collaborate and achieve that vision.

Defining circular design

According to The Cox Review, “Design is what links creativity and innovation to shape ideas to become practical and attractive propositions for users or customers.”

Design is a process that determines the nature of our products, services, built environment and systems. It is the way we shape our environment to meet our needs. Design can be used to transform materials, products and processes (provided other necessary capabilities are also available).

There are 3 principles of the circular economy that are driven by design:

  1. eliminate waste and pollution
  2. keep products and materials in use, at their highest value
  3. regenerate natural systems.

Designing with these principles is what we call circular design.

Circular design requires systems thinking. For example, you cannot simply use recycled materials and call a product ‘circular’. It must be supported by a system that enables circularity.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has emphasised 6 strategies for circular design:

  1. Prioritising highest value opportunities, focusing on approaches such as reuse, sharing, repair and refurbishment rather than recycling
  2. Moving from products to services: enabling users to access products for a short time or every now and then, rather than having to purchase and own it forever
  3. Product life extension: designing products that last, either through physical durability or emotional appeal
  4. Safe and circular material choices, for example, not using materials that contain hazardous chemicals
  5. Dematerialisation: reducing the amount of resources required, through materials efficiency (doing more with less) or complete virtualisation (for example, services such as video streaming)
  6. Enabling upgradability, easy repair and flexibility by using modular design.

The ReSOLVE Framework, developed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, also provides strategies that can be used within design to support the transition to a circular economy:

  • Regenerate: use renewable energies (reclaim, retain and restore health of ecosystems and return recovered biological resources to the biosphere)
  • Share: maximise the use of assets by sharing resources where possible, reusing them and designing them for durability
  • Optimise: increase efficiency of product and remove waste production in the supply chain
  • Loop: keep production cycles closed through remanufacturing and recycling
  • Virtualise: dematerialise, directly or indirectly, the use of resources through digitalisation and virtualisation of products and services
  • Exchange: replace materials with more advanced ones that incorporate these concepts in their design and apply new technologies, products and efficient services.

Get involved

To register your interest in circular design and be informed of events, grant funding and other opportunities, sign up for our CEBIC newsletter.

You can share intel on what’s working for your organisation as well as research or examples of best practice you’ve seen elsewhere. You can also get in touch to arrange a meeting with our team.

For other enquiries, email us at

For more information about circular design, refer to the resources below.

Research and references for circular design

We have collected and recommend the following research and reports on circular design. We will continue to build these resources as we work with our clients and partners over the coming year.