Category Archives: Featured

Have You Voted Yet?

The People’s Design Lab is back with the Redesign Europe Challenge!

On the 16th of May, Zero Waste Europe’s People’s Design Lab project relaunched with a new campaign – The Redesign Europe Challenge – offering participants the ability to nominate badly designed products and vote for their ‘most hated’ products to be improved or phased out.

The People’s Design Lab is now an international project aimed at identifying and redesigning poorly designed and wasteful products which pave the way for a Circular Economy.

The online platform targets products that break too early, that are not repairable, that are toxic, are not recyclable or for any other reason are unfit for a Circular Economy. The People’s Design Lab enables citizens to take action by highlighting the problems and identifying zero waste solutions.

A Three Phase Programme

  1. The 1st online phase will run from May 16 until June 26. During this phase people are asked to nominate and vote for the products they consider to be most wasteful. The three most “hated” products will win the #Designed4Trash award. Additionally, participants can suggest solutions to the wasteful products to provide valuable information to like-minded people.
  2. In the 2nd phase from June 26 onwards, the People’s Design Lab will push governments and the industry to stop the #Designed4Trash ‘winners’ from entering the market.
  3. From September onwards, Redesign Europe workshops will take place around Europe, where people can get together and think new solutions to the most wasteful products on the market.

The History

The People’s Design Lab takes inspiration from the Little Museum of Bad Industrial Design in Italy, and ‘The People’s Design Lab UK’ where examples of bad design were identified by groups of citizens and attempts were made to redesign the products with zero waste alternatives.

To find out more you can contact:

Lucia di Paola, Zero Waste Europe, +32 (0) 2 503 64 88

Or if in the Uk and would be interested to organise some co-design workshops, get in touch with Erica –


  1. People’s Design Lab –
  2. Zero Waste Europe:

Trust Is Not A Waste

We’ve teamed up with an exciting new global initiative and event called the Open Source Circular Economy days running from June the 11th to 15th (but it will also be a lasting collaboration platform). With our friends The Rubbish Diet we had the opportunity to put forward a possible challenge that could be contributed to online, in a community forum and offline during a weekend design workshop.

Trust is not a waste 

“We need an empowered public, awakened and educated to make pro-environmental choices, who can purchase circular designs through proper information on purchasing, product/ system choices, life extension routines and disposal.”

The OSCEdays London team invites us and you to take part in the first Open Source Circular Economy days (OSCEdays) 2015, a global design challenge on open source circular economy.

  • Open Source: This was originally referring to computer software development but now encompasses wider approaches and underlying ethos around sharing, collaboration and documentation and can be applied to products, hardware, designs, policy, standards, data and more

You can hear more about it from Lars and Sam, part of the OSCE days team in Berlin

  • Circular Economy: This term is around looking at better design and business models that prevent or produce less waste via designing in considerations for throughout the product’s life cycle that may increase product lifetime, enable repair and maintenance, provide modular design, can be reused, shared, rented. loaned, disassembled or recycled. Doing this would change current linear focused economic models of business, make, sell, use dispose to more circular, considering the end of life and greater responsibilities in the market.

So….. when looking at Open Source Circular Economy – this is about exploring how the principles of Open Source can help to support and facilitate many of the changes needed to move to more circular design or economy; enabling better understanding  and collaboration between stakeholders in a supply chain or systems, knowledge flows of materials and what can be done with them, more access to repair or upgrade through replacement parts suppliers, greater understanding of our recycling system through more open and transparent measurement and translation into effective communication methods……

City_London- JenniOttilieKeppler -CC-BY-SA-4.0The London event will be held at the Fab Lab London from the 12th to 14th of June. It’s open to all; designers, coders, data scientists, engineers, campaigners, policy makers, waste & resource industry and many more. You can sign-up to join here.

WORKSHOPS-JenniOttilieKeppler- CC-BY-SA -4.0

It’s a chance to participate in a grassroots global event using open source principles to build a circular economy alongside challenge setters and supporters such as The Great Recovery, Open Energy Monitor, The Rubbish Diet,  Cleanweb UK and ourselves.

With more than 35 cities taking part, from Shenzhen to Cairo, Lome to Berlin, Nijmegen to Kuala-Lumpur, simultaneously participating on locally identified challenges, there will be opportunities to connect and share knowledge around open source and the circular economy. You can even get started and meet the global community on the open OSCEdays platform.

It’s supported by great communities and organisations around the world, including the UK-based Knowledge Transfer Network, who recognise the principles of openness and collaboration as important elements of a circular economy. This is a chance to join the OSCEdays community and put ideas into action, to learn, share and collaborate with like-minded people all over the world!

We’re looking forward to seeing the results!



Twitter: @OSCEdays / #OSCEdays

Facebook Group: Open Source Circular Economy Days

Images Jenni Ottilie Keppler (CC-BY-SA-4.0)

Cleaner Design

Back at the beginning of March we were lucky enough to join The Rubbish Diet at Europe’s largest Circular Economy event at the Resource Event at the Excel Centre. Here we helped to facilitate a workshop from a product design and packaging perspective alongside representatives from WRAP, manufacturing, retail and the general public on – How to make the CIrcular Economy more real to people?

Kicking-off discussions on packaging design waste

Kicking-off discussions on packaging design waste

You can read a great write-up in full on it here from Katy of The Rubbish Diet and what’s even better is that the results from the workshop and survey conducted in advance are being used to create an action plan to take forward (thanks to all of The PDLab community who helped through filling this in). We’ll be looking to see what The People’s Design Lab’s role can be in this, to support various action areas. From purchasing decisions, labelling, engaging in alternative business models (such as renting, refilling)  to engaging in campaigns to call for redesign of certain products – these all highlighted the important and varied role that citizens can take to influence, support and help move towards more sustainable and lower waste designs.

But…. before we joined the works shop we were also invited to a “Soapbox pitch” session with Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Network about some of our work. So….. what more fitting product to look at the sustainable design aspects of than soap.

The Story of Soap (on a soapbox)

The Story of Soap (on a soapbox)

What may firstly be regarded as a simple product (no advertising intended there), when you look deeper into its story, it’s history, the materials, cultural aspects and uses, alongside of course it’s packaging it’s a great example that opens up the complexities, considerations and consequences of design.

One so-called “innovation” in the soap, beauty industry in more recent years was the addition of exfoliating beads to support scrubbing the skin or teeth. However originally based on and using properties found in natural materials such as salt, sugar or ground up nut shells, the new technically designed ones introduced the use of small plastic microbeads as an alternative……..

This is where when mapping the system and the different interactions would have helped, alongside greater consideration of risks and consequences…… as now these microbeads are found to not be caught by the filters in our drainage systems, thus becoming a growing pollution in our rivers and seas as well as being digested by the various wildlife found in them.

Since doing our own mini investigation into this area, The Story of Stuff Project have also recently released their The Story of Microbeads movie alongside the already active Beat the Microbead campaign where you can find the products they’re in (also in some toothpaste).

So when we look at products that claim to have innovative new technology or promising exciting benefits for ourselves, we need to look and question a bit further, what’s behind these claims, what do they really mean and perhaps call for real better design for a cleaner environment.

We need to talk ……at Resource

The Peoples Design Lab are excited to announce that we’ll be making an appearance at the Resource Event at the Excel centre London on the 5th March between 2 – 3.30pm. We’ll be on hand to support The Rubbish Diet to represent you. In an interactive workshop we’ll be focusing on the public’s voice on packaging. What you find frustrating, ideas you have to improve and bring various other perspectives together (WRAP, Close Loop Recycling, Nampak,…) to work on solutions (very quickly).

Join us there in exploring the plastics and non-recyclable packaging we end-up with in our households and what we and other key stakeholders could do to change this(you’ll need to register for free entry and then put your name down for the workshop on day 3).

You can also share your views in their short questionnaire . Together we’ll be looking at how we can support making improvements in 2015.

From our previous Peoples Design Lab, nominations, redesign cycles and workshops, we know that packaging is still a very hot topic and complicated issue. Despite some areas where packaging has been shown to actually decrease waste (with certain food types) we know that there are still countless items where this is not a justifiable excuse.

Read the blog at The Rubbish Diet for more details, we’d love to see you there!

The Peoples Design Lab – Behind the scenes

During the summer of 2013 the People’s Design Lab gathered ideas about how to design waste out of our bins, engaging more than 1000 people across the Uk in conversation, collaboration and redesign.

Over the summer our workshops at Cranfield and Loughborough Universities then brought together people who understand design and others who just cared about waste to work on our top three “winning” products for redesign; the inkjet printer, black plastic packaging on food and excess hard plastic packaging. Karen Cannard of The Rubbish Diet and Ugo Vallauri of Restart were there to help us create new solutions!

We then held a conference in Coventry that brought together experts in waste design and manufacturing alongside members of the general public and were awarded as finalists in the Nesta Waste Reduction Challenge. Only by working together can we create change for good through zero waste design.

We had such a positive response and experience ( not without learnings and recommendations and improvements to be made), we are now looking at how to develop the model even further as well as taking some of our findings and products further in the redesign process!

Interested, ideas, support, funding? We’d love to hear from you

Hidden costs of packaging – £12M annual cost to the NHS

15 August 2013

The second People’s Design Lab redesign workshop was kindly hosted by the Loughborough University Design School and brought together people from varied backgrounds united by their desire to reduce the waste we make.  Three teams of lab members put their heads together to develop some radical re-thinking of the products nominated in our People’s Design Lab awards.  The day was full of enthusiastic discussion about how we can take a less wasteful approach to these products and we have so great ideas to build on.

One group tackled excess plastic packaging and as part of their research they discovered that not only can it be bad for the environment, non-food packaging is also responsible for 67,000 (yes sixty seven thousand) visits to A&E each year, at an estimated cost of £12M (you can read more about the research here).  This is surely just the tip of the iceberg of people frustrated by packaging that is excessive and hard to open.  We even found that it is known as “Wrap rage” .  Our re-design proposals include a simple change to toothbrush packaging that could reduce waste by around 150 tonnes each year.

Over the next couple of days we’ll be posting more about our redesigns for excess packaging, inkjet printers and black plastic trays and you can hear more about our work and redesigns at our conference on 12 September.

Inkjet printers – solving the ink cartridge problem – what do you think?

One of the ideas emerging from the workshop in Cranfield was a solution to the waste from inkjet printer cartridges. 

The problem: We use an estimated 100 million ink cartridges a year in the UK, each one taking about 70 ml of oil to make and lasting 2.5 months. Less than one third can be reused/reprocessed and they’re made of mixed resin which is hard to recycle.

Our first idea for a solution:  A universal ink cartridge, which is interchangeable between printers and can be easily refilled.    Clearly there are issues with this as the economics of printers appear to be based on cheap printer, expensive proprietary ink.   Click here to hear Ugo Valleri from Restart talking about the issues.

cartridge redesign sketch

What do you think and how would you solve this problem?  We can feed your ideas into the next workshop at Loughborough

Throwaway Britain – ITV Tonight programme, Thursday, 1st August 9pm

Don’t miss ITV’s Tonight  programme on Throwaway Britain – this Thursday, 1st August at 9pm. The programme investigates what happens to the millions of tonnes of rubbish the public throws away annually and how it could be reduced. Students working with the Lab had their own  close encounter with why stuff gets thrown away when they helped Cwm Harry sort through one tonne of waste for an audit.

Cornelia said “that the thing that shocked me the most was, that it seemed more like a people than a design problem. Especially thinking of all the things that would be so easy to recycle and still end up in the bin or all the unopened perfectly fine packaged food that goes to landfill. And I had no idea how much waste nappies cause, which definitely needs a better solution!” 

Filipa added “One thing that I am likely to change is the use of kitchen paper, really unnecessary and I saw it a lot in the waste audit. Also it is very annoying seen so many films used as packaging for food that cannot be recycled or re-used.”

Redesigning the train ticket

Here at the lab we are busy writing up all the great ideas from our Milton Keynes workshop last week but in the meantime we thought you’d love to hear about some work done on one of our shortlisted products- multiple train tickets.

Richard Watters is a winner of the 2012 RSA Student Design Awards for his re-design of the National Rail Ticket.

Richard says:

“Current train tickets are really confusing. So many unnecessary tickets are given for each journey and with the information randomly thrown on, it can be difficult to work out when you can or can’t board the train. My re-design solves these problems by merging the seat reservation and the ticket into one, reducing the amount of paper used and thus, less wastage. I have ordered the information in a logical way so that the most important information is at the top of the ticket and the least important at the bottom. My solution gets rid of the horrible orange and green and replaces it with white and blue to represent the great history of British Rail and improve contrast with the text. The introduction of Iconography adds to the simplicity of understanding where your seat is on the train (for example near the luggage rack, or in the quiet carriage). If it were to be implemented, this ticket would reduce stress and train fines for the millions of people using our train network every day.”

We love these simple examples that improve the product as well as reducing its environmental impact.

You can see more examples of the redesigned tickets here

Co-oproduct – A design revolution in the making

Meet Co-oproduct winners of The People’s Design Lab Award for Best Zero Waste Design.   They run a fantastic library of designs for making everything from chairs from plastic bags to stylish lights from bike spokes.   People who voted for them said they loved not just the design concept but also that they were open source.

Jamie Billing  co-founder of Co-oproduct said “This is lovely news for us, thank you! After all of the hard work we’ve put in going against mainstream design convention, it is really pleasing to be recognised ‘by the people’ for having this positive impact! But we won’t stop here though – there are still way too many problems with waste and design attitudes across the globe and we’ve so much more planned… Our new site (due live Sept) will set out many more examples of ‘real’ circular economy solutions, including future sustainable product design tools, services and examples.”

Many thanks to all of you at the People’s Design Lab and keep up the great work!”