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A visit to Mutasa Garbage Collectors

Understanding the kinds of small format plastics packaging which are recyclable and reusable compared with those that are not.

Photo of Joseph Mulabbi
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The following plastic materials were purposively chosen to gain an overall better understanding but also to remain focused on the Circular Design Challenge.

Recyclables/Reusable Plastics                                   

Water Bottles

Soda bottles

Food tray


Jericans/Water tanks

Non-Recyclables/Non-Reusable Plastics

Take-away coffee cups + lids

Take-away Juice cups


Bottle caps and tear offs

cups and plates

Shopping bags

Snacks folks and spoons

Blister packs

Shampoo sachets


We need to make a paradigm shift from plastics to other materials which are readily available at our disposal for instance wood and glass.

On the other hand, we need to making packaging more sustainable as seen below.

Many people are naturally concerned about the environmental effects of packaging. The design choices made when specifying packaging determines its environmental impact, which with care can be reduced to a small proportion of the overall product life-cycle impact. Unnecessary packaging wastes energy and resources. Well-designed packaging brings significant benefits, particularly avoiding waste of the product itself e.g. keeping food fresher for longer.

No packaging is completely sustainable because manufacturing requires energy and creates waste. But designers can make packaging more sustainable by considering environmental impacts during manufacture, use and disposal while ensuring optimum performance in protecting the product.

Sustainable packaging could be considered to be the packaging design with the lowest environmental impact that provides the required functionality. It is paramount that analysis of packaging takes into account the social, environmental and economic considerations across the whole lifecycle of the product that it contains to avoid misleading conclusions.

Which material is best? 

The environmental impacts of different materials vary significantly. To improve packaging sustainability, it is vital to consider their impacts at each stage of the lifecycle.

Reduce, reuse and recycle 

Designers can improve the sustainability of packaging by following the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle. But because environmental impacts must be considered across the whole lifecycle of a product, it is important not to reduce packaging to the extent that it results in damage to the product.


One way to improve the sustainability of packaging is to use less of it – reducing size, thickness and weight as much as possible. Reducing packaging cuts down on the use of materials and it also takes less energy to manufacture and transport lighter and smaller goods. As well as being better for the environment, this cuts costs which provides a strong incentive for companies to minimize packaging.


A good way to make packaging more sustainable is to reuse it in its original form. For example, some specialist retailers will refill shampoo bottles if customers bring them back to their store.


 Using materials with recycled content helps cut down on consumption of virgin resources and can reduce the amount of energy used in manufacturing. It also creates a market for waste materials making recycling more viable.

Engaging the consumer

Packaging is an essential part of marketing, helping products stand out on the shelf. But making packaging look more attractive can conflict with sustainability goals. For example, goods such as perfume and cosmetics are often elaborately packaged to increase desirability. As consumers become more environmentally aware, they may begin to reject goods that are perceived to be over-packaged.

PVC, packaging and health 

PVC (polyvinylchloride) is used in packaging such as food trays, drinks and shampoo bottles and blister packs. Where facilities exist, PVC can be efficiently recycled or safely burnt in high-tech incinerators.


Packaging regulations can help reduce waste and improve recycling. For example, some countries have introduced legislation to prevent unnecessary packaging and under filling.

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

Through intensive interactions with Mutasa Garbage Collectors, we exclusively rotated around key areas of interest by the Circular Design Challenge Use Case 1,2 and 3 but out design model shall emphasize Use Case 2(Bottle caps and Tear-offs). We creatively and innovatively studied both short and long-term repercussions brought about by the wrong plastics packaging models and critically analyzed their impacts on society and we are looking out to unveil our solutions in the ideas phase.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Our customers are increasingly aware of the environment and waste, they are more and more conscious of the amount of packaging used. We need to look at ways of tackling plastics packaging and reduce the amount of material we are using or even drift away from plastics to other products like wood and glass by collaboratively engaging in new product design to conserve the environment.

Tell us about yourself

This research was conducted by creative designers and entrepreneurial members of Youth Contact Association in our desire to contribute to the conservation of our environment and those who live in it from humans to animals, fish and extra.


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