Zero Waste Europe Needs Your Help to Redesign Wasteful Products

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Brussels-based association Zero Waste Europe is developing a project to empower community groups across Europe to challenge wasteful products and facilitate stakeholder collaboration on their redesign. ‘The People’s Design Lab’ is expected to launch in June, but with only one week left in its campaign, Zero Waste Europe has raised just over €4,500 of its €8,000 goal.

The organization claims that 80 percent of a product’s environmental impact is determined in the concept and design phase. A study commissioned by Zero Waste Europe last year demonstrated that current extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes do not cover the majority of product waste, leading the organization to advocate for redesigning EPR in order to move towards a circular economy.

The Zero Waste Europe network believes it is essential to advocate for less wasteful design and get stakeholders to become more involved in the design process.

“Citizens have a key role to play in the creating the changes to products which we need,” Matthew Franklin, Zero Waste Europe's Communications and Programme Officer, told Sustainable Brands in an e-mail. “The People's Design Lab aims to engage citizens with sustainable design, helping people to understand design decisions that are made, increase awareness of the value of consumer choices, strengthen the market for sustainable products and help develop creative new solutions to 'bad design'. We believe that open dialogue, collaborative design and sustainable education are critical to creating improved and more sustainable products.”

Through The People’s Design Lab, the organization hopes to:

  • Help identify and expose wasteful products for redesign;
  • Run multi-stakeholder redesign sessions online or on the ground to rethink or redesign “bad” products;
  • Engage with manufacturers in constructive conversations or alternatively lobby or provide input into needed policy change areas; and
  • Ultimately, get positive changes implemented that support a move towards a zero waste economy and better use of resources.

“Our starting point for this project is that if a product cannot be reused, repaired, refurbished, recycled or composted then it needs to be redesigned or removed from the system,” Franklin explained. “The People's Design Lab will lead this process through the creation of a citizen hub for sustainable design. Using this model, it will work to enable citizens to constructively challenge waste-creating design.”

The group envisions a future where even the smallest communities can change wasteful corporate practices.

The effort is an expansion of a United Kingdom-based initiative of the same name, which has advocated for many of the same steps since 2013. Zero Waste Europe has shared a number of videos from the early days of the UK’s People’s Design Lab, featuring some of their workshop participants’ testimonials.

"We have worked closely with the UK project and believe that by bringing it to the international level we can generate a far greater impact," Franklin told Sustainable Brands.

Zero Waste Europe is fundraising through its website through May 11, 2016. The funds will be used to develop an online portal, through which citizens can identify products in need of redesign, as well as sharing potential solutions to the identified problems. The funds would also support the organizing and hosting of redesign events.

The project is expected to launch on June 30 during the first 'Zero Waste Festival' in Paris, an event organized by Zero Waste France, a Zero Waste Europe member organization.


Update notice: This article was updated on May 5, 2016 to include new information provided by Zero Waste Europe staff.

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