Every day, the world sends about 5 million tonnes of waste to landfill. This figure is already well beyond what most countries can currently handle, but it will nearly double by 2050 if business continues as usual. Changing this is vital if we want to get to the root of our ecological crisis, but it demands a near-total redesign of our products, values and habits. At the same time, it’s critical that we find creative solutions to collect, process and transform all the waste that already exists, while extending the useful lives of the things we already have.
Many designers around the globe are already playing an active role in this effort, exploring both top-down and bottom-up approaches to humanity’s waste problem. To coincide with the launch of the Redesign Everything Challenge, we’ll be sharing some of our favourite cases over the next few weeks, starting with two of the most common (and immediate) strategies for change: recycling and repairing. Keep reading for a closer look at 5 initiatives that are already making an impact, delivering everything from new materials and technologies to political pressure and awareness.
FURNITURE FROM FALLEN TREES
Lúdica Teia | Spaces | Brazil
Lúdica Teia is a design project that rescues fallen trees in the city of São Paulo and transforms them into public furniture. Led by designer Hugo França, the studio adopts an artistic approach to production, working with the natural patterns of wood to create beautiful objects and spaces. The project also offers workshops and schooling in the craft of tree-carving, promoting sustainable skills in the community.
This case is related to two issues of great relevance in Brazil: the first is the increasing frequency of heavy rains and other natural disasters, which are causing many native plants and trees to suffer. The second issue is the lack of interactive spaces in inner cities. Here, Lúdica Teia acts as a provocation to rethink the way we treat natural resources and urban wood waste.
Public furniture installed at one of São Paulo’s city parks. Photo: André Godoy.
MODULAR PROSTHETICS FOR EVERY BODY
Circleg | Product | Kenya
Millions of people around the world currently lack access to affordable, functional and sustainable healthcare products. In Kenya, the social enterprise Circleg is answering this call by producing modular lower-limb prosthetics. Circleg’s prosthetic was developed specifically for the needs of amputees and technicians in low- and middle-income countries and was co-created with their support. Among other things, this means that it is designed for repairability: its modular parts are easily fixed and fully customisable to each individual, using only basic tools and minimal effort. Local production further improves the maintenance and repair of used parts, saving beneficiaries both time and money. To further minimise waste, the social enterprise also collects used components to be recycled and reinserted into the supply chain.
The Circleg One prosthetic in use. Photo: Henry Robinson.
TEXTILE DISASSEMBLY MADE EASY
Resortecs | Materials | Belgium
In response to fashion’s growing waste problem, Resortecs develops solutions for textile disassembly and recycling. Their innovative materials allow fashion producers to minimise their resource use, while enabling recyclers to process higher volumes of premium-quality material. One of their most exciting products is Smart Stitch, a heat-dissolvable stitching thread with different melting points, which enables clothing producers to make their designs recyclable from the manufacturing stage. At the end of their useful lives, these garments can be returned to Resortecs for disassembly, where they will be pulled apart using a patented process that is low-emission and causes little to no material damage, allowing fabrics to be used over and over again.
Heat dissolvable threads. Photo: Resortecs.
A PLATFORM FOR CARE AND REPAIR
Club de Reparadores | Systems & Services | Argentina
In many urban communities, repair is a dying skill. Club de Reparadores is an Argentinian initiative that hopes to change that — by providing people with the skills and resources they need to repair everything from clothes to home appliances and electronics. Besides hosting live fix-it workshops across cities in Latin America, the club also runs a digital platform that connects users with local cobblers and repair shops. While this makes it easier for people to share tools and save money, the main goal of the project is really about promoting a culture of care and educating people about the right-to-repair. In terms of impact, it is a triple threat: extending the life of objects, offering employment opportunities for skilled tradespeople and building more resilient communities.
Connecting people through repair. Photo: Club de Reparadores.
TOO MUCH CLOTHING, NOT ENOUGH JUSTICE
Stop Waste Colonialism | Communications | Ghana
This campaign by The Or Foundation advocates for the rights of people living and working in Kantamanto, the largest secondhand market in the world. Kantamanto currently imports nearly 15 million used garments every week — most of it discarded by consumers from the Global North — and 40% of which usually end up as waste.
The Stop Waste Colonialism campaign was designed to raise awareness and accountability for this issue. The immediate goal was to drive legislative change and to push for an extended responsibility programme for textile producers in Europe. Through clever use of film, photography, social media and various print and digital publications, they show how effective storytelling can uplift communities while making complex issues more tangible.
A screenshot from the Stop Waste Colonialism video campaign.
Top image: Circleg Ambassadors wearing the start-up’s first edition prosthetic. Photo: Henry Robinson.