I pulled out the latest issue of Green Futures for a bit of light relief. It instantly lifted my mood as it reminded me just… how exciting sustainability issues can be.
Over the course of the past 11 weeks, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) and OpenIDEO.com, an online platform that allows people to collaborate on designs for social good, have been encouraging members of the OpenIDEO.com community to submit ideas for increasing recycling at home – an issue that CCE has identified as being particularly important in terms of reducing the C02 emissions created by its packaging.
More than two hundred innovative concepts were uploaded to the OpenIDEO.com platform, submitted by members from all over the world. These ranged from slick apps to high-tech recycling bins, and were eventually whittled down to a shortlist of 25 ideas by an expert advisory panel – which included representatives from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Forum for the Future, WRAP, FostPlus and Casino – during a series of workshops held in London.
Green Futures attended the final Challenge Workshop on 11 June, and joined in a lively, thoughtful debate that aimed to discern which of the ideas showed the highest degree of original thinking, practical sense and real applicability. We were guided through each idea by Nathan Waterhouse, Co-founder of OpenIDEO.com, who emphasised that many had been extensively trialled by their creators, and honed with the help of feedback from the OpenIDEO.com community during the Refinement Phase of the challenge.
The panel also brought their experience to bear on each idea, assessing them against the key requirements of the challenge – whether they would work equally well in a variety of countries, for example. Having listened to other people’s comments some members of the panel even changed their mind with regards to their five favourite ideas, which everyone had been asked to submit prior to the workshop. "I came here having reviewed the ideas online, and I had some fairly clear ideas about which ones I liked and which ones I didn't", Hermione Taylor, Founding Director of The DoNation, told Green Futures. "But hearing the thoughts of other people on the panel has really changed things for me."
Although all the ideas had their champions, it soon became clear that there was a degree of overlap in terms of those the panel thought had the most potential to create an impact. Members of the panel also remarked upon the range of ideas the challenge had produced, from R-Blocks’ aesthetically pleasing and customizable recycling bins, to the Bottles for Smiles program, which aims to transfer the equivalent amount of electricity saved when a consumer recycles something to low-income families. Concepts like CycleUp, Trash Talks and Less drew upon gamification techniques, pledges and social media peer-pressure to encourage more recycling at home and in the wider community. While ideas like Recy'Cream Trucks aimed to bring mobile recycling centres to urban areas (or possibly even festivals, as one member of the panel suggested), allowing people to exchange recyclable materials for fun, healthy snacks.
Other ideas impressed with their simplicity. Waste Free Wednesdays, for example, aimed to borrow the logic of the Meat Free Monday concept to encourage people to go 'waste free' every Wednesday, consuming nothing that would end up in landfill. Another winning concept proposed stickers for the inside of recycling bins, clearly identifying what can and can’t be recycled in the local area.
Everyone was also surprised by the level of professionalism and detail already apparent in apps like This to This, which allows users to quickly see what a recyclable item can be turned into, and Recyculator, which scans a product and displays its environmental impact.
"The contribution from the OpenIDEO.com community has been terrific", Joe Franses, Director of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at Coca-Cola Enterprises, said toward the end of the workshop. "We've been blown away by the creativity and the level of prototyping that has gone into these ideas, which will make it easier for people to form new habits, as well as help to build recycling communities."
Rose O'Neill, Freshwater Programme Manager at WWF-UK, thought the "good mix of people from across the supply chain" had also played an important in the success of the expert panel sessions, helping to establish a balanced consensus on the concepts that deserved to be among the winners. Emmanuelle Badouix, Associate Director of Recycling at CCE, added that: "Being part of the discussion, hearing how we could build upon some of the ideas – for me that has been much more efficient than thinking about them by myself."
A desire to combine some of the shortlisted ideas – particularly in the case of the apps –to create a bigger impact on home recycling habits was expressed by several members of the expert panel, something OpenIDEO.com could help to facilitate in future by connecting members whose ideas might benefit from closer integration. All the ideas produced over the course of the challenge are also open source, meaning anyone can decide to take them further should they so wish. Frances hopes that CCE or some of the members of the expert panel will be interested in doing so during the ongoing Impact Phase of the challenge.
Waterhouse is equally eager for the contributions of the OpenIDEO.com community to become "something meaningful and practical that will really change people's behaviour around recycling habits" in future. While Karoline Kirchhübel, a designer at OpenIDEO.com, neatly summed up the purpose of initiatives like CCE’s Recycling Challenge by adding: "If you want engagement from people, you've got to engage yourself – and that's exactly what has been so good about this challenge.”
Duncan Jefferies is Assistant Editor, Green Futures.
The eight winning ideas from CCE’s Recycling Challenge are:
Photo credit: OpenIDEO