Londoners’ Lab


How can citizen engagement inform the design of food waste recycling services?



UCL, FCC, Ferrovial Services, Borough of Ealing, City of London, Resource London, Greater London Authority


We took a novel approach to defining recycling interventions through citizen engagement, in the wild approach, and persuasive technologies.


Physical intervention designed and implemented for testing during Winter 2017.


We tested multiple methods to engage with residents towards identifying gatekeepers to the community and building trust between the researchers and residents.


Recyclable waste that ends up in landfills is a costly problem both financially and environmentally in Greater London. The Mayor of London has set a goal to drastically improve recycling performance in the London boroughs by 2020. To tackle this challenge and encourage more people to recycle, a joint programme, Londoners’ Lab, has been set up to improve the state of waste services using a citizen-centric approach.

As research leads in Londoner’s Lab, we carried out a three-phased study to engage with multiple project stakeholders and the residents of a housing estate in the London borough of Ealing. A literature review of recycling behaviours and interventions, a set of interviews, a co-creative workshop, and observations of the estate’s recycling bins were conducted to scope the problem, engage with citizens, and gather requirements for the recycling intervention. Multiple engagement methods were employed to ensure a holistic approach: participation in estate events; doorstepping; and engagement with the residential board; background research and sourcing of third party resources.

Our key findings were twofold: engaging residents in a diverse estate was challenging, and interest in food waste recycling was low. However, three design directions for an intervention that could encourage participation in food waste recycling were revealed: residents could be persuaded to change their behaviour through more pleasant, awareness-raising, and convenient design solutions. New guidelines for conducting collaborative, multi-stakeholder citizen engagement were also discovered: the need for multiple methods and a multi-phase structure combined with flexibility and creativity in data collection, to counterbalance the unexpected events that arise when researching in the wild.