One of the most challenging fractions of waste in a zero waste vision is all that is left over after recycling—because it is either too toxic to be safely recycled or is made out of non-recyclable material. It’s the fearsome residual fraction.
It is also that fraction of waste that proponents of end-of-pipe technologies such as landfills or incinerators use as their failsafe excuse to expand, as if the residual fraction is inevitable, a given by nature that is here to stay.
Well, far from it. Instead of blind acceptance, if you take a good look at what this residual fraction is made up of, then you’ll be able to assess the most appropriate solutions. At a minimum, if something cannot be reused, composted, or recycled, it needs to undergo a proper redesign!
A good place to start is outing residual waste. Enter the People’s Design Lab, where you can nominate products that can’t be recycled, re-used or repaired; vote for the worst of the nominated products; and share better ideas. The People’s Design Lab was formally launched on April 27th at the gorgeous and inspiring Good Life Centre in London, where lots of zero wasters had a first go nominating the worst and best products for a zero waste future.
The four People’s Design Lab Award categories are self-explanatory and rather eye-opening:
– The Weakest Link Award for Products You Thought Would Last a Long Time, but broke and then couldn’t be fixed. Maybe these items are impossible to open or take apart without inflicting terminal damage to the product, or it could be that spares just aren’t available. Take, for example, affordable headphones, which break easily and are very hard, if not impossible, to fix. That’s a nomination for the Weakest Link.
– The Bin Again Award for Stuff You Throw Away Week After Week. What is it that you keep throwing in the bin? Black food packaging trays, multi-layer envelopes, pump dispensers? The purpose of this award for disposables is to highlight and find solutions for products that are frustratingly designed for limited use. Can they not be made out of recycled material? Is there no alternative already available or waiting to be developed? The People’s Lab not only solicits nominations, but also wants to hear what you’ve got to say about options.
– The Russian Doll Award for Unnecessary Packaging. We’ve all seen these products that need a packaging refresh. Maybe they have too many different materials or are made of non-recyclable materials? If you are frustrated about the packaging around a product or have a great idea for alternative packaging to propose, then this is the place to share it. Don’t be shy; let’s out pre-peeled re-wrapped bananas, cereal packets whose plastic packaging and cardboard boxes are only 3/5 full, crisps and biscuit packaging, dead space in pharmaceutical products, and other ridiculous examples of unnecessary packaging in our wasteful society.
– Award for all Other Products Needing A Redesign. If your nomination does not fit any of these categories, just submit it here! Small electronic chargers for example, just need to be re-designed. Why do they all have to be so different? So incompatible? Share with People’s Lab your discomfiture and join forces to rethink these products.
Ultimately, it’s time to champion zero waste design. The People’s Lab also asks for nominations for the Best Zero Waste Design to celebrate the many ground-breaking innovations that are already being developed. See for example the reusable carpet tiles, or the ARA Chair, which has been the first chair to achieve full Craddle to Craddle accreditation.
Get involved! There is no time to waste! The People’s Design Lab will be open for your nominations and votes until May 27th. Let’s all support this creative and fun strategy to raise awareness about our fearsome residual waste fraction.
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