Redesigning wasteful products

Annie Reece reports from the London launch of an online platform to design out waste 


There's just one week left to vote for the 'most wasteful' products on the market, as part of the People's Design Lab's maiden venture into designing out waste.

The new online platform aimed at harnessing the ‘collective intelligence’ of communities to design out waste, the People’s Design Lab, was launched in London on 25 April.

Run by members of environmental services provider Cwm Harry and partners, the lab was first set up as ‘The Museum of Bad Design’ in Presteigne and Norton (home to a Welsh Government-funded zero waste project), after residents voiced their frustration at throwing away the same materials repeatedly.

Speaking to Resource at the launch of the People’s Design Lab (PDL) at the Goodlife Centre’s Repair Café near Waterloo, organisers Katy Anderson and Adam Kennerley (pictured) explained: “We happened to be in Italy talking about Presteigne and zero waste and heard about the Museum of Bad Design, a community organisation in the town of Capannori, which literally went through the dumps and found that Lavazza coffee capsules were a recurring item that were being thrown out. They got in contact with Lavazza and are now working to make better-designed, more easily recyclable capsules. 

“If they can speak to industry based on collected evidence and make something better together, why can’t we do the same?”

After getting through to the finals of Nesta’s Waste Reducing Challenge Prize and receiving finances to set up and test the project over a six-month period, the project has now been extended nationwide in the hopes of giving people from all walks of life a chance to contribute to better product design.

The online lab invites people to nominate products that they think could be improved, not just at the design stage itself, but through the whole supply chain from cradle to grave. 

Categories for nominations are: the ‘Weakest Link Award’ for ‘Products You Thought Would Last a Long Time’; the ‘Bin Again Award’ for ‘Stuff You Throw Away Week After Week’; the ‘Russian Doll Award’ for ‘Unnecessary Packaging,; the ‘Award for all Other Products Needing A Redesign’; and the ‘Award for Best Zero Waste Design’. 

The first round of nominations and voting is open until 27 May. Products top of the leader boards will then be put out for vote again to choose category winners. Once those have been chosen, PDL will release a public design brief asking people to find ways of designing waste out of the selected products. 

Kennerly continued: “It would be fantastic if Joe Public out in his garden in Inverness for example, has an idea and submits it online. It may be completely left-field and out-of-the-box thinking but it may work. To date, there is no way for that person’s idea to be heard. That’s what’s so exciting about the lab – it is trying to create a space for people to drive a laboratory, which is not currently being utilised.” 

Anderson added: “We’ll then invite industry and government to come round the table and help work on the solution with us. With all this creative thinking, we’re bound to come up with good solutions.”

The work under Nesta is a prototype, and, if successful, the People’s Design Lab will roll out as a social enterprise and research centre with collective ownership. PDL will hold a conference in September to review progress and shape what happens next. 

Kennerly concluded: “We’re looking to see if we can get this service right. If we do, we hope we’ll have the ability to harness the collective intelligence of communities in their various thousands and represent that back to government and industry to work together for better products.”

The Nesta finalist that demonstrates the most success will be awarded a £50,000 prize. 

Find out more about the People's Design Lab.