Packaging design for the circular economy: a systematic review

Zicheng Zhu, Wei Liu*, Songhe Ye, Luciano Batista

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The concept of circular economy has been ubiquitous over the past five years and has been steadily gaining a consensus as a new paradigm. Circular economy covers a wide spectrum of topics ranging from waste management, through materials to supply chain, amongst which packaging is an essential part for achieving a truly circular economy. It has been emphasised that resources should be kept in closed loops, thereby generating zero waste. However, largely due to the nature of packaging materials and designated usage, the packaging industry is built on a linear model where packaging is designed, produced, consumed and disposed of. This creates substantial amount of waste, which is now a growing concern for the earth ecosystem.
To enable a smooth transition from a linear to a circular system, packaging design has been recognised as the fundamental stepping-stone towards a circular economy. In this study, an extensive literature review is performed, investigating the growing body of research on packaging design in relation to circular economy. This paper reviews the state-of-the-art research on packaging design, including design rules, guidelines, considerations and tools that can be applied in the design process for achieving a circular economy. A circular packaging design framework is then proposed, summarising the findings and showing (i) the factors that determine material selection, (ii) the design strategies, guidelines and considerations to be taken into account in the
conceptual design and design development phases, and (iii) the tools and indicators to assist design validation and assessment of packaging circularity. Finally, future research trends in various aspects including material selection, design guidelines to facilitate recycling, design assessment tools, design education and policy making are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)817-832
Number of pages16
JournalSustainable Production and Consumption
Early online date12 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors. CC BY 4.0

Funding: The authors would like to thank the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and UK Manufacturing Symbiosis Network Plus (grant no. EP/S036091/1) that provided financial support to this work.


  • Packaging design
  • Circular economy
  • Regulation
  • Packaging waste
  • Reuse
  • Recycling


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