Implementing Solutions

Circular Economy

How can people create and consume goods that are renewable, repairable, reusable, and recyclable?

Submissions are Closed

Challenge Overview

Every year, the world creates more than 2 billion tons of solid waste—roughly five times the total weight of all people on the planet. The linear supply chains used to extract and process material into goods produce a significant amount of carbon emissions while exposing people and ecosystems to disruption and chemical risks, whether through mining, dyes, leaking landfills, or microplastics.

Linear models of designing and producing clothing, plastics, electronics, and other goods have been led by high-income countries: the supply chains for goods consumed by the richest 10 percent of the world’s population are associated with 50 percent of carbon emissions. Yet, the resulting climate change will drive more intense droughts, floods, and heatwaves everywhere, particularly in countries with the fewest resources to adapt. For everyone’s benefit, the world’s supply chains and the hundreds of millions of people employed by them need to shift towards a circular approach that targets zero waste and minimal impacts.

A smartphone designed for repair and recycling decreases mining for minerals in conflict-prone areas. Clothes made with renewable fabrics that can biodegrade will not require petroleum or landfill space. Shifting business models from frequent purchases to goods for local repair, rental, or reuse reduces the number of products that need to be manufactured or transported in the first place. Finally, choosing materials produced and recycled with zero-carbon energy lowers the carbon footprint for all products or later uses. Building a circular economy will require changes in product design and business approaches that have ripple effects throughout supply chains and economic systems.

To shift towards circular supply chains where the goods we use are zero waste with minimal impacts, Solve is seeking solutions that enable:

  • Increased and equitable production of renewable and recyclable raw materials for products and packaging;

  • Design and production of mass-market clothing and apparel that are recycled and recyclable or biodegradable at end of life;

  • New business models that encourage extending the lifetime of products rather than frequent purchases; and

  • Recycling of complex products like electronics.

Challenge Chairs


Solver Funding, Prize, and Partnership Eligibility for the Circular Economy Challenge

Solver Funding

All solutions selected for Solve’s four current Global Challenges will receive a $10,000 grant funded by Solve. Solver teams will be selected by a panel of cross-sector judges at Solve Challenge Finals during UN General Assembly week in New York City on September 22, 2019.

In addition to Solve funding, the following prizes are available to Solver teams selected for the Circular Economy Challenge. To be considered for a prize, complete the prize-specific question within the application. You do not need to meet these requirements to apply to the Circular Economy Challenge:

AI Innovations Prize

Solutions that are propelled by advanced computing techniques or that leverage artificial intelligence to address the Challenge are eligible for the AI Innovations Prize. This prize is made possible by The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation and Schmidt Futures. The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and our global community through neuroscience research and information technology. Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt that bets early on people who will make our world better — helping people to achieve more for others by applying advanced science and technology thoughtfully and by working together across fields. Up to $500,000 will be granted across several recipients selected for the prize. Eligible Solver teams may be selected from any of Solve's four current Global Challenges.

GM Prize on Circular Economy

Solutions that help communities shift towards a more circular economy through zero waste and zero carbon, including through STEM education for new design and manufacturing techniques, are eligible for the GM Prize on Circular Economy, made possible by General Motors. Up to $50,000 will be granted across two Solver teams within the Circular Economy Challenge.

Innovation for Women Prize

Solutions that use innovative technology to improve the quality of life for women and girls are eligible for the Innovation for Women Prize. This prize is funded by the Vodafone Americas Foundation, which supports technology-focused projects to advance the needs of women and girls, and to promote a world where women’s voices can be celebrated. Up to $75,000 will be granted across up to three Solver teams selected to receive the prize. Eligible Solver teams may be selected from any of Solve's four current Global Challenges.

Innospark Ventures Prize

The Innospark Ventures Prize is open to AI-based solutions from across the cybersecurity, education, healthcare, life sciences, and business services sectors focused in the United States. The prize is funded by Innospark Ventures, which invests in founders and ideas that leverage advanced artificial intelligence to create a differential and disruptive impact for our economy and society. Up to $100,000 will be granted to up to four eligible Solver teams from across any of Solve's current Global Challenges.


Accepting Solutions

  • Challenges Open

Refining Solutions

  • Deadline to Submit a Draft Solution at 5:00pm ET
  • Edit Your Posted Solution

Evaluating Solutions

  • Solve Challenge Finals
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