First step towards my Circular Challenge

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After a deep analysis of the product, that allowed me to better understand which are the problems to tackle, I can finally start defining my Circular Challange. As the toothpste has a Linear Process, my design vision of a more sustainable toothpaste starts with the packaging. How to make the packaging more sustainable? We already know from the previous post (Product Analysis) that using laminate is cheap compared to other materials and it also helps to safely contain the chemicals within the paste since toothpastes contain fluorude (which is considered as a drug) and consequentially they need to match FDA regulations.

So is it possible to re-design the packaging without changing the paste’s composition?


Circular Challenge: changing the toothpaste packaging, make it circular and more sustainable in order to avoid packaging waste.


1- Toothpaste packaging are discarded contributing to the problem of plastic pollution → Why are they discarded?

  • The toothpaste is over

They are made of laminate (not recyclable) → Why?

Laminate is cheap

Considering the LCA laminates have a better environmental performance

Laminate is a secure packaging for storing chemical materials (toothpaste) → Which material are also secure?


  • Not discard the toothpaste packaging once finished → How?

Toothpaste packaging composed by a dispenser and refills → How the refills are packed? (same problem point 1) See Challenges2


  • Explore different toothpaste paste textures in order to find out alternative packaging and new ways to store it.




1- Develop the dispenser

2- Explore new paste textures

2.1- Develop the packaging for the refills

(Hypothetical Solution Challenge1 & 2)

If the toothpaste has a solid texture (Lush Toothy Tabs) different packaging solutions to store the refills are possible.

Lush Toothy Tabs negative aspects:

  • Strange flavours to differentiate from competitors
  • Chalky (powdery)
  • Packaging made of cardboard looks like chewing gum packs, not ideal to store in a wet environment as the bathroom.


First meeting with the designers

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During the first workshop with external designers I had the chance to meet Gideon who helped me walking through the six Circular Design Strategies. I explained to him which my Circular Challenge was and which are the directions I intended to follow (check First step towards my Circular Challenge) then we started brainstorming and playing with the Circular Design Strategies, trying to look at the toothpaste in a broader and not conventional way in order to come up with ideas that fit the Products that Last principles. It wasn’t an easy task, we had to force ourselves to think differently, and sometimes we felt we had no reference points, since finding an answer to my Circular Challenge means to design a brand new kind of toothpaste. At the end of the day we came up with different Circular Design Strategies that can be found here.

Circular Design Brief 1.0

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As consequence from the last meeting with Gideon, where we felt disoriented, I decided to make a deeper research regard the toothpaste localized in the Netherlands (which is the biggest company, what is the average price, who is the target) in order to find some reference points and to understand which Circular Design Strategies to apply.

Launch: Netherlands

Toothpaste market: Zendium – Unilever

Zendium Relative Advantage

Zendium fluoride contains 6 unique enzymes and proteins that occur naturally in saliva and can enhance the protective effect. So not only do you brush your teeth clean, but you also work in your mouth resistance. Therefore Zendium is the ideal toothpaste to keep your mouth healthy. Zendium oral care products have a unique blend of enzymes and fluoride which strengthens the mouth’s natural defenses.

Price 5,00€ (20% higher than others premium t­oothpastes) Premium product

Target: Primarily users from 35-55 years, attentive to the care of their body, but looking for not aggressive products and that are willing to pay more for these benefits.

Circular Toothpaste Briefing

Target: users that already go for sustainable personal care products (35-55 years?)

Toothpaste: fluoride free (avoid FDA regulations)

Product components: Toothpaste container, refills, shoulder and nozzle

Product materials

Toothpaste container: using durable and recyclable materials as aluminium or plastic (laminate plastics consume lower life cycle energy compared to aluminium)

Refills packaging:

  • Capsule: Bioplastic made by sodium alginate (E-401) from the brown algae and calcium chloride (E-509) (Ooho!)
  • Refills: Film of plastic/bioplastic

Shoulder and nozzle: Depends on the toothpaste container

Product interaction

Toothpaste container: It is “permanent” can be bought just one time and its function is dependent upon the refills

Refills: They are replaceable and can be bought separately form the toothpaste container

Shoulder and nozzle: (interchangeable nozzles give you the possibility to change texture, colour or taste (how?) of your toothpaste, giving the possibility to personalise your own toothpaste.)

Hypothetical Circular Design strategies

Attachment and trust


  • Appearance: texture, colour, shape

1- Interchangeable nozzle+shoulder (Refill) allows to change texture, colour, taste of the toothpaste

2- Hourglass

1- Interchangeable nozzles give you the possibility to change texture, colour or taste (how?) of your toothpaste, giving the possibility to personalise your own toothpaste.

2- Implementing an hourglass into the toothpaste allows the user to know how much time should be spend to brush the teeth. It becomes a sort of educational product.



  • Materials: Durable materials (ex. Aluminium)

1- Durable materials as aluminium or recyclable plastics

1- Durability concerns only the material aspect of the product, therefore a durable material as aluminium or plastic (materials that can be recycled in the Netherlands) are preferred.

Standardisation and compatibility

1- Stackable containers (Capsule)

2- Compatibility between different parts: container, refill, different nozzles

1- This toothpaste container can be stacked, depending on how many users are sharing the toothpaste (one person, a couple, a family with one kid ecc…)

2- Different combinations of toothpaste container, toothpaste refills and different nozzles (Attachment and Trust – Interchangeable nozzles) must be compatible.



Circular Design Brief 2.0

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After the first workshop together with professional designers came up that trying to re-design a fast moving consumer good is really challenging. My brief keeps evolving as the project goes on and external insights from designers and fellow students help me to face my Circular Challenge (avoiding packaging waste).

As one Circular Challenge wasn’t already enough, after the second workshop, when I got time to put all the insights and suggestions together, I decided to add a second Circular Challange to the brief which is “using all the toothpaste inside the tube“. Since paste is always left inside the toothpaste once it is discarded (probably the design of the toothpaste itself is the cause) would be interesting to make the toothpaste even more Circular by solving this issue.

From last Circular Design Brief 1.0 I kept the Hybrid Model (dispenser + refills) but I’m still working on which Circular Design Strategy to apply and in order to do so, together with the help of the designer Gideon, we started analysing archetypes of users that might fit our case. We came up with two archetypes: low involved users (users that pay low attention to personal care and look at the price rather than the quality) and high involved users (users that are aware of the differences between personal care products and look at the quality rather than the price).

Circular challenges:
1- Avoid packaging waste
2- Use all the paste inside the toothpaste (new challenge)

Challenge n.1 = Kit dispenser + refills
Circular Business Model: Access Model
Circular Design Model: Attachment and Trust
“When your toothpaste is empty you can go to a pharmacy/drugstore and refill it there. There will be service that allows you to choose colour, texture and flavour. Than you go home with your refills and put them back inside the dispenser.”
Target: High involved users

Challenge n.2 = Toothpaste spray + paste powder
Circular Business Model: Hybrid Model
Circular Design Model: Design for Durability
“Add the powder inside the dispenser, water, shake it and spray. This toothpaste aims to avoid leftovers and it is possible to use it with one hand. The powder and the dispenser can be bought separately”
Target: to be defined.

Circular Design Brief 3.0 (and not the final one)

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With the last brief (Circular Design Brief 2.0) I made important steps forwards my final concept but there is still work to do!

After a feedback session, with the help of the professors, we discuss which of the two concepts I proposed in the Design Concept 2.0 is worthy to be further developed. We decided to go for the second concept: Toothpaste spray + paste powder but beside using powder (because according to my Product Analysis a powdery texture doesn’t feel comfortable for the users) we will use toothpaste capsules made by bioplastic (an old idea explained in the Design Brief 1.0). A brand new insight  is to build a Product Service System around the users where they can order the capsules from home, maybe also choose different flavours and colours, taking as an example Dollarshaveclub.


Brief recap

  • Circular challenges:

1- Avoid packaging waste
2- Use all the paste inside the toothpaste


  • Target:

High involved users that need quality and sustainable products (no chemicals, no fluoride in order to avoid FDA regulations) products (premium product) = premium product

  • Circular Business Models:

Hybrid Model: Dispenser + Refills Circular Design

  • Strategies:

Durability: the dispenser has to last long so materials and sempliciy regard mechanism and usage are considered

Attacchment and Trust: Choosing different flavours and colours


The relative advantages of having capsules of toothpaste are:

  • Can be dosed (1 capsule = 1 dose)
  • There are no toothpaste leftovers
  • The toothpaste is visible
  • Laminate packaging is avoided


A new toothpaste is born!