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Circular Connect Competition

Engaging youth in the Western Visayas, Philippines to design circular economy solutions that combat plastic pollution and prevent marine litter

Be the change in your community...
Join our challenge to tackle marine litter by designing circular economy solutions that combat plastic waste. Develop innovative business ideas to reduce single-use plastics, promote sustainable practices, and revolutionise waste management, all while preserving our precious marine ecosystems. Together, let's create a cleaner, circular future for our local seas!

Image by Angela Compagnone

Call for Innovation

How might we effectively tackle the problem of plastic waste and marine litter so that we can contribute to the preservation of marine ecosystems, fisheries, and the tourism sector in the Western Visayas?

Participants will be tasked with developing innovative solutions within the framework of a circular economy to:

  • Reduce single-use plastic and packaging waste

  • Promote sustainable plastic consumption and production

  • Improve land-based waste management systems.

Solutions should consider local contexts, infrastructure limitations, and the involvement of various stakeholders such as governments, businesses, academia, and civil society.

Which higher education institutions can join the competition:

Select institutions in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines who have been invited by GIZ.

Who can join the competition and submit a circular solution:

Any individual, aged 18 and above, who is currently enrolled as a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD student in an eligible higher education institution (all academic disciplines are welcome to join).

This competition is open to teams of 2-5 entrants. We encourage participants to form teams that are diverse and multidisciplinary. Having a diverse team with a wide range of experiences, backgrounds and skills, can help broaden perspectives and spark new and creative ideas.


July 27 - August 22


Participating universities promote the competition on campus and students complete the registration form to gain access to a circular innovation toolkit and resource support to prepare their circular solution submissions.

August 23 - September 19


Registered participants work through the circular innovation toolkit to develop a circular solution. Circular Cities Asia will also provide resource support and host an Ask Us Anything Session.

September 21 - 27


Circular Cities Asia and GIZ Philippines will review the submissions and shortlist the teams that will gain access to an innovation boot camp.

September 29 - October 27


The shortlisted teams receive support in further developing their circular business ideas. After the boot camp, teams submit a short pitch for a chance to win a grant and the opportunity to present during GIZ's national stakeholder forum.

August 22


Students of the participating universities (aged 18+) must submit the registration form by this date to gain access to a circular innovation toolkit and resource support.

September 20


To enter the competition, student teams must complete the competition submission form by this date.

September 28


We will announce the shortlisted teams and email them with next steps to prepare for the innovation boot camp.

Early November


Select teams present their circular solutions during GIZ's national stakeholder forum.


Urgency of the Challenge

Driven by rapid urbanisation, economic development and changing consumption and production patterns, the amount of single-use packaging and plastic items is rapidly increasing in the Philippines and other ASEAN member states. 


At the same time, waste management systems lack effectiveness in terms of environmentally sound collection, sorting, recycling, energy recovery and disposal of plastic waste. These trends significantly contribute to marine littering – a growing local, national, regional and global threat to marine ecosystems and fisheries as well as the tourism sector. Governments, businesses, academia and civil society increasingly recognise that a switch towards a circular economy approach to reduce packaging and plastic waste is needed to tackle these challenges.

Although a global problem, the solution to plastic waste and marine litter varies from one locality to another. Having localised solutions to these problems can significantly reduce the barriers encountered in the implementation.

Circular Innovation Journey

Make sure to pre-register to gain access to a circular innovation toolkit and resource support to help you prepare your circular solution submission.



Here is the circular innovation journey we’ll guide participants through:

Problem Discovery

In this stage you’ll identify a plastic waste problem within your local context and conduct research to better understand the key stakeholders, processes and waste involved, gather meaningful data from potential customers/users about their pain points, and then interpret your findings to figure out if it’s a problem worth solving.

Ideating Solutions

In this stage you’ll focus on the ‘what if’ or ‘what could be the future’. You’ll come up with potential solutions using an ideation process that includes getting inspired by circular design strategies, conceptualising circular ideas and deciding which idea can be a viable solution to the specific plastic waste problem your team identified.

Solution Development

In this stage you’ll focus on making the business case for your circular solution to be implemented. You’ll conduct research on different aspects of business development, such as market sizing and segmentation, unique value propositions, business financials and solution validation. Afterwards you’ll put together a pitch presentation.
**This stage will be in a boot camp format for teams whose circular solution submission gets shortlisted**


Top Student Teams


Problem identified: There are inadequate plastic waste collection services in Western Visayas' residential areas, for example, in Bacolod City. This has fostered poor waste management, causing extensive littering and the unlawful disposal of garbage into bodies of water.

Circular idea: An app to encourage individuals to adopt responsible plastic waste segregation and disposal practices and to compel Local Government Units (LGUs) to adhere to the proper implementation of waste collection protocols. The app would provide LGUs a robust system to monitor waste and collection schedules effectively. Residents would receive information about the collection schedules, and additionally they can buy and sell used materials and products on the app, access education resources and submit photos and information of highly polluted areas (waste hotspots).


Problem identified: Flooding is a prevalent issue in Iloilo City due to recurring waterway blockages, primarily stemming from excessive and unregulated garbage disposal in creeks and rivers. Trapped solid wastes  become a threat to safety and environmental quality. These wastes that are disposed of in waterways also end up in the sea.

Circular idea: The project 'Clean Flow: One River at a Time' will establish a floating boom, beginning with the selected pilot community, to trap waste before it reaches the sea. It would allow for a more efficient collection, waste auditing, segregation and disposal of these land-based wastes. The project aims to promote a multi-sectoral collaboration between government officials, junk shops, FMCG and fast food corporations, environmental organisations and academe.


Problem identified: Currently, the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Miag-ao, in the province of Iloilo, has implemented the national government's materials recovery facilities (MRFs) program. However, the MRFs in the municipality are not actual facilities or buildings; they are just containers spread within the barangays. Moreover, the project fails to serve its purpose as improper waste segregation occurs at household levels.

Circular idea: An upgraded MRF with the aim of linking households, barangays and junk shops in an integrated waste management system. The barangay will provide incentives to encourage the households to segregate their residual waste, recyclable waste, and organic waste. To divert as much waste as possible from the landfill, the barangay will also coordinate with junk shops, MENRO and organisations for proper recycling and/or processing of wastes into products that can be sold.

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Problem identified: Single-use cups are made with hard-to-recycle materials like polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). Even paper coffee cups are lined with PE which acts as a moisture barrier. Another problem is the bagasse waste of the sugarcane industry. The improper management of bagasse waste leads to environmental pollution, air quality issues, and pest problems.

Circular idea: Collect bagasse from sugarcane mills and turn them into pulp sheets. The pulp sheets would then be made into bagasse-based cups as a substitute for the plastic and paper cups used in coffee shops. These cups would biodegrade more easily than plastic ones and could be put in the compost.


Problem identified: Within the Municipality of Ibajay, in the province of Aklan, there is a significant portion of households that are not adequately practicing solid waste management and segregation, particularly with regards to plastic waste. Additionally, there is a linear system of collecting plastic waste that ultimately ends up in landfills, consequently polluting the environment.

Circular idea: A program to encourage households to segregate their plastic waste correctly. Incentivizing the contributors with monetary rewards and vegetable seeds will help to motivate the community to participate. The collected plastic waste will be sold to companies that manufacture recycled plastic products, and the profits will be utilized to compensate the participating community.


Problem identified: About 4 million beverage carton packaging (e.g. Tetra Pak) waste is generated every year in Bacolod City alone. They are not easily recyclable because they have multiple layers and they usually end up as litter in waterways or in landfills. Trash-to-cash centers and junk shops do not accept these beverage carton wastes.

Circular idea: Partner with cafe owners to source their Tetra Pak waste and work with informal women waste pickers to be the designated collectors. The Tetra Pak cartons would be repurposed and made into privacy walls/dividers by artisans. The team would collaborate with the Local Government Unit (LGU) so that they can distribute these walls to evacuation centres. Evacuation center users can then take them home. Walls in need of repair can be returned to be repaired or repurposed.


Problem identified: The sachet and tingi-tingi culture in the Philippines is very rampant and difficult to address knowing the financial and economical status of every household. There is also a general lack of knowledge and information among people about segregation and waste management. These sachets end up polluting waterways, such as streams, rivers and the ocean.

Circular idea: Start a community-based recycling program that actively involves local residents and businesses in segregating plastic waste. This program will focus on collecting sachets and upcycling them into garbage bins that will then be sold.


Brought to you by:

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Through their 3RproMar project, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, brings forth the Circular Connect Competition. The competition is geared towards providing a platform for the youth sector to develop circular economy-focused solutions that will help tackle the problem of plastic waste and marine litter in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines.


GIZ has engaged Roleen Sevillena of Circular Cities Asia as the implementer of the Circular Connect Competition. For any inquiries, please contact Roleen Sevillena: roleen [@]

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