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Photo taken by Amy Whitfield

Post disposable futures — the workshop

What were our goals

  • Get a bunch of great people in a room with a rich variety of perspectives, roles and responsibilities
  • Begin creating a common language around post disposable
  • Light a fire and provoke new thinking
  • Get participants to see where everyone was at, and highlight the importance of working together

Who attended the session

We had roughly 55 attend the event, all of which had various degrees of knowledge around post disposable design, circular economies, and sustainability. What was excellent to see was they had backgrounds in government, manufacturing, service industries, design and start-ups (so yes we pulled off some real co-design).

Designing the workshop

The workshop was an ongoing collaboration between us and the team at KeepCup and Today. Although we couldn’t wait to start designing a post disposable futures, we had the massive constraint of having just one hour of people’s time. Here is an outline of our workshop schedule for those of you who are curious.

Time for the debrief — what worked well

Picking a voice at the beginning

At the start of the workshop we got participants to select the voice of a person or a group that they wanted to represent for the hour. We asked people to select something close to where they were currently but extend it to where they could see themselves fitting in a post disposable world. Similar to what an empathy map might do, we asked them to extend their character to what would motivate them to participate in a circular economy and what might get in their way.

Activity 1. Reflection and representation

Mapping roles (impact and influence) to the circular economy

Our follow up activity — either individual or in pairs — was to take two colour coordinated tokens and place them on a giant map of the circular economy. Participants were asked to place them where they felt they could have most impact or influence.

Where our tokens landed
Actor mapping for Sell/ Lend/ Share

Talking about possibilities

Just having the time to talk about circular economies and post disposable futures for an hour did spin out some great things for us to dig into a bit further.

  • In what ways will our roles and responsibilities change to facilitate a post disposable world?
  • What relationships do we need to strengthen — or new relationships do we need to create — between people, enterprises and government departments?
  • What is the role of design? How does design help in educating individuals and industries about post disposable futures then prototyping them?
  • What mindsets, tools or spaces do we need to succeed?
  • Where do we collectively feel we could start?

What didn’t work as expected

We simply needed more time

One hour is clearly not enough for this sort of deep dive into a very different way of thinking. But it is enough to test if the whole concept of co-design for post disposable has legs. For future workshops my current line of thinking is closer to a summit, forum or ‘jam’ over two days. The first evening would be a designed as a meet and greet, where participants are introduced to the complex concepts and theories by experts in what makes up a post disposable system.

  • 1.5 hours for mapping the existing and future system
  • 2 hours designing principles,
  • An hour formulating challenges and then
  • any time left coming up with ideas for prototypes and pilots (designing and testing them)

We needed to level the playing field

Not all participants were familiar with circular economies and post disposable systems. They were curious, but they weren’t experts. We needed to spend more time making sure everyone had the framing and language to engage with the topic.

Holding the futures space was a challenge

During the mapping we found it hard to keep participants in the futures space, many were finding common ground when reverting to conversations about the status quo and the immediate challenges they faced.

So, what’s next

Well the good news is we are just getting started, we’ve learnt a lot from our first sessions and want to keep exploring this space.

Get educated, get involved, get in touch

Final thoughts

Disposable products are everywhere, so going post disposable is a huge shift in thinking.

In a practical sense transitioning to a future that eliminates single-use products and disposable objects toward something circular and waste free means a drastic intervention and redesign. Billions of disposable single-use products are used everyday, they appeal to us because they are convenient for businesses and consumers because they are cheap (or free) for people to use and dispose of. *Although that may all be about to change if the Latte Levy in the UK catches on globally.

Play along at home, work, or school.

Download our workshop materials including instructions and activities
(and tell us how it goes).

Special thanks

To KeepCup and City of Melbourne for supporting this thought experiment.



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Jo Szczepanska

Jo wants to live in a fair and healthy world, where services are co-designed with communities. She's multidisciplinary designer with a background in research.