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.

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