Closing the Loops of Fast Moving Consumer Goods

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Design Engineering


The Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) sector aspires to transition to a Circular Economy (CE) but there is a lack of knowledge and support methods. This research has investigated how material resources flow in FMCG systems and developed new design support for the sector. Initially, we focused on the moment when resources become obsolete which can disrupt flows. Consumers were found to have critical roles to ensure resource revalorisation and the findings of this study can inform the design of future revalorisation services. We then looked at Product-Service Systems (PSSs) and studied the elements that could help overcome obsolescence and enable closed loops resource flows. A framework presents these elements, mapped against requirements for PSSs that close loops. Subsequently, we investigated the resource flow-system, which encompasses all the elements in place to produce a resource flow. A new modelling method is proposed that describes the movements and transformations of resources, and helps configure FMCG sector-specific system elements. The model can be used to explain how FMCG systems work. Finally a tool is presented, which embeds the modelling method as well as the process to apply it and analyse the model. The tool enables industrial users to develop a holistic view and an in-depth understanding of the resource flow-system informing the development of future systems solutions.

Journal papers featuring work presented in this thesis
Zeeuw van der Laan, A. and Aurisicchio, M. (2020), "A framework to use product-service systems as plans to produce closed-loop resource flows", Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 252, p. 119733.
Zeeuw van der Laan, A. and Aurisicchio, M. (2019), "Archetypical consumer roles in closing the loops of resource flows for Fast-Moving Consumer Goods", Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 236,.

Conference papers featuring work presented in this thesis
Zeeuw van der Laan, A. and Aurisicchio, M. (2021), "The Flow Mapper : A Tool to Model Solutions for the Circular Economy and Put Systems Thinking into Action properties", PLATE Conference 2021.
Zeeuw van der Laan, A. and Aurisicchio, M. (2019), "Gateways to Revalorisation in Future Circular Cities: A Vision for Closed-Loop Resource Flows", Sustainable Innovation 22nd International Conference. Road to 2030: Sustainability, Business Models, Innovation and Design, The Centre for Sustainable Design, pp. 113-119.
Zeeuw van der Laan, A. and Aurisicchio, M. (2019), "Designing Product-Service Systems to Close Resource Loops: Circular Design Guidelines", Procedia CIRP, Vol. 80, pp. 631-636.
Zeeuw van der Laan, A. and Aurisicchio, M. (2017), "Planned Obsolescence in the Circular Economy", PLATE Conference 2017, pp. 446-452.

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509486/1 30/09/2016 30/03/2022
2287907 Studentship EP/N509486/1 30/09/2016 29/09/2020 Anouk Catherine Zeeuw Van Der Laan
Description 1) A characterisation of four archetypical roles of consumers in closing loops of fast-moving consumer goods.
2) A framework of twenty-one product-service system elements mapped against four sub-functions of product-service systems that enable closed loops.
3) A conceptualisation of a resource flow-system, function tree and library of system elements that can be used to model a flow-causality diagram of this system.
4) A tool called the Flow Mapper which enables industrial users to collaboratively model a resource flow-system and analyse the model.
Exploitation Route The first two results are published in journals and conferences.

Further research on the Flow Mapper is planned as part of a new post doctoral research project.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Other

Description This work was co-funded by Procter & Gamble. This industrial collaboration allowed a natural translation of the results into the sector through seminars, workshops, strategy development, exhibitions, co-authorship on internal publications and engagement in live front end innovation and product development projects. Insights derived from the literature review were used to inform the development of the sustainability strategy of the partner company. The work on archetypical consumer roles was used in a design sprint workshop carried out by the partner company. The Flow Mapper tool was used in a live front end innovation project with the partner company.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Influence on practice through engagement on a live front end innovation project
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Working with the Flow Mapper provided users with new insights that include core principles of the Circular Economy.
Description EPSRC Impact Accelerator Account - Early Stage
Amount £15,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R511547/1 
Organisation Imperial College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 11/2019
Title Flow Mapper 
Description The Flow Mapper was developed to model the resource flow-system by interpreting flow as the overall function of the system. The tool includes a modelling method and a process to apply the method and analyse the model. Templates and moveable parts are introduced in the Flow Mapper to build the model. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The Flow Mapper was used in live front end innovation and product development projects. 
Title Flow Causality Diagram 
Description A method to model flow-causality, termed Flow- Causality Diagram, was developed. The Flow-Causality Diagram is a visual representation of the resource flow-system, which uses nodes and arcs to express causalities between system elements and between system elements and processes. 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The methods are at the basis of the development of the Flow Mapper tool. 
Description Participatory Research for the Flow Mapper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Participatory Research approach to the development of the Flow Mapper Tool allowed to engage industrial users throughout its development.
Industrial users were engaged in simulations of the Flow Mapper (i.e. live demonstrations of the Flow Mapper process and outcomes) to encourage a discussion to review and critique the tool.
Academics, students and industrial users were engaged in workshops of the Flow Mapper (i.e. applying the Flow Mapper to cases) to obtain feedback and share knowledge.
We engaged in live front end innovation and product development projects with the partner company using the Flow Mapper.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020