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University of East London students design beach bin to raise awareness of plastic pollution

UEL students design bin for environmental charity GreenSeas Trust

Two students from the University of East London (UEL) are doing their part to save the environment with an innovative rubbish bin that encourages people to responsibly dispose of plastic waste.  Emily Hodgkinson and George Davis, third-year students on the University’s BSc (Hons) Product Design course, have created a bin casing in the shape of a life ring with imagery and messaging that highlights the impact of plastic pollution on sea life.

The University, in collaboration with environmental charity GreenSeas Trust and the Mayor of Blackpool’s office, is helping launch the bin at Blackpool Pier on 5 June, World Environment Day. The goal is to roll out additional bins at other seaside towns around the UK alongside the #binsforgreenseas charity campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the dangers to marine life from plastic.

Emily said, “I believe that product designers have a responsibility to create something now that will also consider the future of our planet. Since designing the bin for GreenSeas, I have developed a greater appreciation of the need to protect our oceans and wildlife from the ever growing threat of plastic waste.”

George said, “The project was important to me personally as I had spent many years sailing as an instructor in the sea cadets and saw first-hand the widespread impact plastic waste has on the sea. This project has helped to develop my understanding of product design and the major impact the objects we design have on the earth. It’s time for eco-friendly designs to become the norm.”

GreenSeas Trust approached UEL product design staff to ask if students would be interested in creating an impactful design for a bin with the aim of encouraging people at the beach to be more careful of how and where they throw away plastic. Course leader Andrew Wright and lecturer Matthew Brown knew Emily and George were the right students for the project. 

The duo met with representatives from the GreenSeas Trust, and then used their ample artistic, visual and digital skills to create a design which the charity approved and manufacturers could produce.  The final design incorporates the look of stacked-up life preservers with images of sea life that include fish scales, dolphins, sea birds, and a jellyfish. The jellyfish is placed next to a plastic bag, which predatory creatures, to their determent, often mistake for a jellyfish. 

GreenSeas’ campaign slogan is ‘throw marine life a lifeline’. Whales, sharks and other creatures often die from eating or becoming entangled in plastic. 

The design incorporates some important facts: 
•Animals mistake plastic bags for food which over time kills them.
•There is an island of rubbish twice the size of Texas inside the Pacific Ocean.
•Over 1 million sea birds are killed by plastic pollution each year.
•Plastic has entered the human food chain with both fish and sea salt containing traces of plastic. 

Matthew Brown, product design lecturer said, “No one can fail to be moved by the photographs we have seen of polar bears playing with plastic on remote Arctic islands and seals being strangled by plastic packing bands.  So we are very proud that two of our students have played a significant role in disseminating the message of preventing plastic pollution. 

“On a more local level we are really pleased to see our students gaining direct industry experience.  As a university we are focused on producing employment-ready graduates and Emily and George are great examples of our students successfully working with employers and industries.”