What Design Can Do asks creatives to solve our waste problem

The design platform has partnered with the Ikea Foundation, Impact Hub and a group of renowned creative leaders to launch a global design competition offering at least ten chances to win €10,000 investment.

15 March 2021


What Design Can Do has partnered with the Ikea Foundation to launch an international open call to creatives to solve our planet’s problem with waste. The No Waste Challenge asks for design-driven solutions to reduce waste and rethink the way we buy, sell and use resources on the planet. The global competition has three briefs to choose from, and applicants can submit their ideas for a chance to win €10,000 investment in their concept, plus publicity and development support from startup network Impact Hub.

With landfills growing by some two billion tonnes of garbage every year, the No Waste Challenge seeks “exciting, feasible, and potentially scalable solutions” that attack the problem from many angles. The competition brief details how all kinds of waste are now threatening our ecosystems: plastic waste, textile waste, food waste and electronic waste, and asks how design can help us envision new ways forward.

The campaign enlists renowned creatives including Alice Rawsthorn, Bruce Mau, Fernando Laposse, Fred Gelli, Nelly Ben Hayoun, Selly Raby Kane and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto to offer their perspective on the issue. In a short film promoting the open call, the industry leaders weigh in on the complex relationship between the creative industry and the waste crisis, with design items contributing to the problem. “I’ve designed trash. We’ve all designed trash,” admits Mau. “Early design was actually long term. We used to build things that last. Then we introduced short-term design, planned obsolescence – that things would break and fall apart. We actually designed it that way. And now we have to design it out.”


Copyright © What Design Can Do, 2021

The three briefs are as follows:

Take Less – explore the root causes fuelling our waste problem, our addiction to buying and owning more and more stuff. How can we inspire new narratives that go beyond endless mass production and consumption? Could design help to restore our relationship with nature and its resources?

Make Better – 80 per cent of a product’s environmental impact is baked in at the design stage, and yet, most products are still designed with little regard for waste. This brief asks designers to look at reducing waste during the production process through innovative materials, circular systems and low-impact techniques.

Handle Smarter – investigate ways for waste to be managed and valued sustainably and fairly. How can we better track the different forms of waste we produce? Could we expose or even reverse the inequitable flows of the waste trade?

What Design Can Do suggests creatives focus on impact and innovation in their concepts, and welcomes interventions at various scales, whether it’s a new idea or an existing enterprise, a “small hack or a big dream”.

Applications are open until 20 April 2021. Find out more and enter here. You also can view existing entries in the project gallery. At least ten winners will be chosen overall.

GalleryCopyright © What Design Can Do, 2021

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Copyright © What Design Can Do, 2021

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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