Waste Management Initiative

Design thinking specialist, service & product designer
Trashypeople, Copenhagen Municipality


Design research and design development for new recycling systems, services and overall user experience in Copenhagen. Creating a new strategy for how people in Copenhagen recycle their trash with the purpose of improving waste and ressource management.  

Can sorting your trash be a beautiful experience? In Copenhagen, it is required by law to sort your trash and recycle. This requires a lot of daily sorting in peoples homes. How do people deal with this task in small apartments? What systems, services and products might be needed to achieve the goal of 100% recycling. 



1. Intensive desktop research, investigating available knowledge including internal reports from the municipality, examining best practises, circular economy, recycling behaviour, learnings from failed attempts. 

2. Specialist workshop. We gathered 13 specialists in recycling, circular economy and nudging. Based on the initial assumptions from the desk top, themes were discussed and three focus areas identified. 

3. Design research. Building on the process so far, we initiated a 3 week process of qualitative field work with a select group of diverging respondents in Copenhagen.  

4. Development of rapid prototypes. Design of temporary recycling units with the purpose of testing and measuring behaviour.  We build and installed different prototypes in 10 apartments.  

tp prototype sheet 17.jpg

prototype sheet


5. Co-creation with users. The users tested the installed prototypes for 3 week. We were looking to learn what type of unit would generate the highest sorting succes. I was personally stressing from the start of the project that it "just needs to be easy, then people will do it" and I was very curious to see if this strong assumption was proven right – the prototypes proved that it was a correct assumption. 

We were testing 3 variations of prototypes and asking the following questions:



Does all fractions fit in a 60x60cm closet under the sink?

Which fractions can be combined?

What is the access to all containers?

How much space does the trash take up?



How flexible does a unit need to be?

Which containers can be combined?

How large do the containers need to be?

How much space does the trash take up?



How is it working with a freestanding unit?

Where in the apartment can it be placed?

Which containers can be combined?

How large do the containers need to be?

How much space does the trash take up?

Example of 3 weeks of testing our primary solution:

OUTCOME  The respondents tested the functionality of the new solutions for 3 weeks. In most cases, the respondents were so happy they asked to keep the new system as they now sorted their trash with ease. (They of course got to keep their prototypes.) 

An 80 page report with 9 recommendations was delivered to the Copenhagen Municipality. (Danish only)