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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

Little Museum of Bad Industrial Design

Primary school students of Capannori, Italy, set up the Museum of Bad Industrial Design (Piccolo Museo degli orroridi progettazione). A museum of packaging and products that cannot be reused, repaired, recycled or composted and hence have to end up in the dump.


This experience allowed the students to observe their everyday life and pick those things that were not sustainable. The experience was enlightening for the students but also for the grown-ups; how can we allow products to enter the market when even children can see that they are designed for the dump?


In order to enlighten the industrial designers of the big wealthy companies producing these goods the pupils wrote letters to them asking to please think about the future and produce products that could be recycled or composted at the end of their lives. As with the case of the coffee-capsules some of them replied with thank you notes and confirming their commitment to improve the design in the future.


Here is a good experience to involve children in waste prevention. The less non-reusable/repairable/recyclable stuff in the market the closer we are to Zero Waste!

Unpackaged: shopping without packaging

Look at your home waste and you will see that it is mostly packaging. Once you have removed the food waste and paper what is left is mostly single use plastic bottles, cans, trays… Therefore, if you minimise the packaging in your shopping you will be generating less waste. Easy, uh?

Unpackaged is one of these shops in Europe that allow you to shop without having to bring home a bunch of single-use recipients and plastic bags that only harm the planet and fatten our bins. Unpackaged was founded in 2006 by Catherine Conway in the belief that there is a better way to sell products, so that customers can do the right thing – for themselves and for the environment.

Catherine set up Unpackaged because she wanted to refill her groceries using her own containers. The dream was to set up a beautiful shop that made it really easy for customers to come & refill all their daily essentials.

The website of Unpackaged explains very well why whilst some packaging is necessary in our modern industrialised food chain, unnecessary packaging is a waste because of:

Cost: It increases the price of the goods you buy. You are charged twice – first when you buy over packaged products and then through council tax for disposing of your rubbish.

Waste: It wastes resources at every level: production, storage, transport and disposal.

Pollution: Landfill and incineration are the two main ways of dealing with packaging waste. These are major pollutants for people and the environment as they release toxics and greenhouse gases.

What about recycling? While some packaging is recycled, most ends up in landfill sites and incinerators and some packaging is difficult and impossible to recycle. Recycling is certainly part of the solution, but it will only work if we use less packaging and adopt more ‘reusable’ ways of doing things – Unpackaged is based on this ethos.

This is why the mantra of unpackaged is:

Reduce by only buying what you need
Reuse by bringing your containers for a refill
Recycle what you can’t reuse

And… if you can’t reuse or recycle it then don’t buy it!

There is a growing trend in Europe but also around the world to minimise packaging. After all, when people go shopping they want to buy food, drinks, etc, they don’t want to buy packaging!
In a sensible world the producers should be interested in getting back the packaging so that they don’t lose the materials and this way they can use them again and again. This is not only how our sensible grandparents used to do it, it is also the basis of a how a deposit refilling system works or how Extended Producer Responsibility is being to be implemented in British Columbia in Canada.

Implementing Zero Waste strategies it is not only sensible and fun, it also attracts interest from the media. See these press highlights for Unpackaged:

  • Two lovely videos from CNN & Reuters which show off Unpackaged.
  • Features in many different types of publications from national newspapers to industry, design & consumer magazines – The Grocer, Which Magazine, The Independent, Style Will Save Us
  • Time Out recently voted Unpackaged the #48th best shop in London
  • Catherine was voted #32 in the Observer Food Monthly Top 40 Eco Heroes.
  • Unpackaged was included in Time Out’s ‘Little Black Book’ of the 500 most essential services in London

Succesful Zero Waste event in Rome

Organised by Zero Waste Lazio with the support of the Italian Zero Waste Network

Last weekend the Piazza Apostoli in Rome was filled with more than 3000 people who were asking for a Zero Waste alternative to the “Polverini local plan” which instead of reducing, reusing, composting and recycle wants to dispose of most of it.

The alternative plan proposed by the citizens puts separate collection at the center of the policy; recycling and composting what cannot be prevented or reduced and instead of resorting to mega landfills and incinerators for the remaining waste (10 to 12% of the total) it proposes that this waste should be studied and submitted to cold-treatment prior being biologically stabilized and stored in a landfill.

The Zero Waste demonstration asked not to replace the now closing dump of Malagrotta with a new mega landfill elsewhere in the Lazio province. Instead it is requested that the municipality of Rome, which represents 5/6 of the total municipal waste generated in the Lazio region, should implement door-to-door separate collection integrated with a system of reuse, repair and recycling centers.

The Italian Zero Waste Network is asking for the immediate replacement of the people responsible for this mismanagement and the return of a democratic logic that should bring back the power to the local communities and institutions.

The Italian Zero Waste network will be back to Rome on December 3rd to move forward with the local Zero Waste organisation to continue pushing for these goals. In this occasion there will be participation from people from international Zero Waste speaker, Paul Connett.

On behalf of the Italian Zero Waste network
Rossano Ercolini