The circular economy plays a crucial role in transforming our inherently destructive economic system into one that is regenerative by design. This shift promises substantial environmental benefits, contributing to the preservation and restoration of our planet's ecosystems. In an insightful Q&A session with Connor Bryant, Co-founder and Director of Rubbish Ideas and The Rubbish Project, we explored how embracing the principles of sustainable design is not only necessary but inevitable. Connor also shared his company's objectives, highlighting their significant role and impact in driving this essential transformation.

#CTS: What inspired you to become an industrial designer and sustainability entrepreneur? Can you briefly describe the mission and objectives of The Rubbish Project and Rubbish Ideas?

Connor Bryant: Design & problem solving has been a passion of mine my entire life, probably from playing with lego, fixing things, and building dens in the woods when I was a kid. A passion I focused on throughout school and then university.

Sustainability and environmentalism have also been ingrained in me from childhood as my mother, Julia Hailes MBE, is a sustainability pioneer who made sure I was well informed on the topic from the word go.

The mission of Rubbish Ideas is simple, to help businesses to redesign their products, packaging, and operations to be fit for the circular economy. At Rubbish Ideas we aim to achieve our mission both through consultancy and setting up new ventures, or creating new products, in partnership or alone that further our cause.

The Rubbish Project is a groundbreaking partnership we set up to foster the adoption of 100% recycled rPET cups and closed-loop recycling at events. Our transformative initiatives have reshaped the Benelux events industry, partnering with key players like Huhtamaki, ABInBev, MOJO (Live Nation), LOC7000, and more.

The Rubbish Portal: An industry leading online waste tracking platform initially designed for the events industry, now expanding to other sectors. This user-friendly tool empowers our clients to capture, monitor, and manage their waste and eco impact data effortlessly. Our platform also offers consultancy, guiding clients to elevate their sustainability outcomes.

#CTS: Could you share your thoughts on the importance of carbon reduction and its role in addressing climate change? How does your work contribute to the growth of this approach?

Connor Bryant: Reducing carbon emissions as well as activity drawing down carbon from the atmosphere is vital to address climate change.

However climate change is only 1 of 9 grave threats (planetary boundaries - Identified by Johan Rockstrum) that the earth faces. Fortunately as sir David Attenborough highlights in the closing summary of the documentary: Break Boundaries, The circular economy addresses all planetary boundary concerns.

Rubbish Ideas is focused on accelerating the transition to a CE as quickly as possible as this approach is an imperative non-negotiable for the survival of the human species. Most CE issues have direct carbon implications including the use of recycled materials and avoiding landfill at end of life.

#CTS: In your opinion, what are the key challenges and opportunities in the field of sustainable design and the circular economy?

Connor Bryant: The end of the world is a massive problem, but design is all about problem solving, so for a designer it's a massive opportunity as well as a threat. The opportunity is not just to design a life raft for us to avoid disaster, the opportunity is to create a global system that consumes resources within our means while providing abundance for all life on earth. The opportunity is also to repair and revitalise our failing ecosystems so that we can thrive alongside nature.

The challenges are many, but they are less conventional design problems, such as material choices and product functions, and more to do with legislation, lack of willpower, corporate greed, and cultural change.

We have the technology, ideas and solutions required to save the world. We do not need to wait for any magical new technology. The key challenge is redesigning an economic system that is destructive by design, into one that is regenerative by design, while navigating the barriers created by those who profit from the destructive model.

#CTS: How do you envision the future of sustainable design and the circular economy in the next 5-10 years? What are your top priorities and goals for Rubbish Ideas in the context of the climate emergency and environmental improvement?

Connor Bryant: The future of humanity is circular, or it will have no future at all. Simply put the transition to a circular economy is inevitable, so I see sustainable design focused on delivering this future becoming mainstream in the next 10 years. Currently there is a lot of focus on doing a bit less bad, patching some holes, making minor improvements to badly thought out business models or products. In the future companies will focus on designing products and services that are actively good for the environment, not just carbon neutral, or even negative/positive but regenerative by design.

Our top priority at Rubbish Ideas is simple: highlight the problems of our wasteful society to galvanise and enable the most rapid transition to the circular economy as possible.

#CTS: Can you elaborate on the geographical reach of Rubbish Ideas and the industries you work with? Please provide examples of businesses or industries you have partnered with to improve their circularity.

Connor Bryant: Rubbish Ideas is based in the UK but we work with businesses across the globe, but mainly focused on European countries.

We work with businesses from a wide range of industries to tackle their waste problems and support on their circular economy transformation. We have focused a significant amount of our energy on the events industry working with major players including: ABInBev, Heineken, Live Nation and more.

Through our work under The Rubbish Project partnership we changed how the entire events industry works in the Benelux region with the major brewers switching away from disposable cups made from virgin PP that went to landfill to a closed loop recycling system with 100% recycled rPET cups. Legislation change has followed our work in both Belgium and the Netherlands forcing the industry to make this transition.

#CTS: The London Climate Technology Show aims to promote and popularise sustainable thinking. In your opinion, how significant are events like these in advancing sustainable practices and awareness?

Connor Bryant: In my opinion events that promote sustainability are very important a number of reasons:

1. Connecting industry professionals to foster collaboration, knowledge sharing, and growth

2. Industry and public education and awareness

3. Opportunities to inspire new entrants to team green

4. Opportunities for innovative startups

5. And more