Past Exhibition

Waste Age: What can design do?

We are living in the age of waste. Is design the answer to leaving our throwaway culture behind?


'Fascinating, beautiful glimpses into a brave new world of design.’
★★★★ Evening Standard

'A powerful wake-up call' The Guardian

'The exhibition hopes to promote living without waste and tries to imagine a more resourceful world for generations to come.' It's Nice That

What to expect

We all know waste is a big problem. So how are we going to fix it?

A new generation of designers is rethinking our relationship to everyday things. From fashion to food, electronics to construction, even packaging - finding the lost value in our trash and imagining a future of clean materials and a circular economy could point the way out of the Waste Age.

Explore major new exhibits that capture the devastating impact of waste including a large-scale art installation by Ibrahim Mahama made from e-waste in Ghana.

The exhibition showcases some of the visionary designers who are reinventing our relationship with waste, including Formafantasma, Stella McCartney, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Lacaton & Vassal, Fernando Laposse, Bethany Williams, Phoebe English and Natsai Audrey Chieza.

'We must face the problem of waste – we can no longer ignore what happens to things when we get rid of them. Instead of thinking of objects as things that have an end life, they can have many lives. This is not just an exhibition it is a campaign, and we all have an active part in our future.' Gemma Curtin, Curator.

Bottle-Top Chain: A Winter's Month of Bottle Top. 6,600 bottle tops collected by volunteers from the Cornish Plastic Pollution Coalition in Cornwall between Dec 2015 - Feb 2016.

Totomoxtle by Fernando Laposse — a new veneer material made with husks of heirloom Mexican corn. The project regenerates traditional, at risk, agricultural practices and preserves biodiversity for future generations.

Fashion section featuring designs by Bethany Williams and Phoebe English.

View of the Post Waste exhibition section looking at the use and application of algae. Panel of tiles and 3D printed Vessels by Atelier Luma/Luma Arles, I.C.W Studio Klarenbeek & Dros, 2017 - 2021.

Sisal Table made from agave leaves left over from tequila distilleries by Fernando Laposse, 2019.

Polyurethane (PU) Droolings - Industrial Waste from a boot factory in West-Flanders, Belgium. Collected by Rotor VZW, 2008.

Charlotte McCurdy and Phillip Lim's biodegradable plant-based dress made of algae bioplastic sequins.

Life from Light - interactive installation by Sony Group Corporation with sound design by Megrim/Takahisa Mitsumori.

Installation by artist Ibrahim Mahama made from e-waste in Ghana


Adapt - Try the free App

To mark its fifth year in Kensington, the museum partnered with Snapchat to create Adapt, an augmented reality experience that reimagines how our iconic building could adapt to extreme weather conditions. Download and open the app to focus on the building and see how it changes!

Take action

Get inspired by the Waste Age: What can design do? exhibition and find out some of the small actions that can help to make a big difference.

It's time to #EndTheWasteAge

Discover the Design Museum Kids Podcast

The museum invites children of all ages to learn about the content of some of our most interesting and wonderful exhibitions.

Waste Age Audit

Working to make change in ‘Waste Age’

Discover how the Design Museum is learning to cut the environmental cost of exhibitions.

Advisory panel

Understanding and measuring waste is complex, so the museum has formed a panel of leading experts with specialist knowledge of sustainability and design to guide the exhibition.

Jane Withers

Jane Withers is a leading design curator, consultant and writer. Her London-based studio works with cultural institutions and global brands on curation, programming and design-led strategies. Withers teaches and speaks internationally and has served on numerous juries and advisory boards. She has a long record working with sustainability and the role that design can play in tackling social, cultural and environmental challenges, particularly, the future of water.

Joe Iles

As Circular Design Programme Lead at Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Joe's role is to inspire and empower designers to create products, services, and systems for the circular economy. Part of the team since 2011, Joe has helped shape the circular economy narrative, crafting stories and messages to reach new audiences and improve understanding of the topic. He has worked closely on Circulate, their news channel for events including the flagship Summit in London, and the digital festival of ideas Disruptive Innovation.

Joycelyn Longdon

Founder of ClimateInColour, a platform dedicated to making climate science and environmental issues more accessible and diverse, Joycelyn is a PhD student currently researching the application of artificial intelligence to climate change at Cambridge University. As a diasporic woman of colour, Joycelyn cannot see climate justice without racial and social justice. Her work in the tech and science space also focuses on centring indigenous knowledge systems and marginalised voices in algorithms.

Marcos Cruz

Marcos Cruz is an Architect and Professor of Innovative Environments at the Bartlett. He is the Director of Bio-ID, a cross-disciplinary research platform between architecture and biochemical engineering co-created with Dr Brenda Parker to develop new forms of bio-integrated design for the built environment. In addition to his practice and academic leadership, Cruz’s research focuses on the utilisation of living matter in buildings, from neoplasmatic design to bioreceptive materials and poikilohydric systems.

Natsai Audrey Chieza

Founder and CEO at Faber Futures, Chieza is a leading thinker on the transformative role design can play in the equitable development of consumer biotechnology. A member of the Global Futures Council on Synthetic Biology, Chieza established novel design-driven processes and conceptual frameworks for bacteria textile colouration, which have been exhibited internationally. She leads a team that translates value and transforms systems across education, design, life science, and manufacturing industries.

Rebecca Earley

Rebecca is an award-winning designer and Professor of Sustainable Fashion Textile Design at the UAL. She is based at Chelsea College of Arts where she is Co-Founder and Director of Centre for Circular Design (CCD). Rebecca's practice and research encompass making materials and prototypes, exhibition curation and writing. She particularly enjoys the challenge of educating and inspiring audiences into more sustainable choices and actions towards circular futures.

Sophie Thomas

Sophie is a campaigner, designer and Chartered Waste Manager who investigates and promotes circular economy design principles. For over 20 years, she has been working in sustainable and ethical design, behavioural change and material processes through her London-based agency, Thomas.Matthews. Her work with the charity Common Seas and as a founder of The Great Recovery have shaped her as a leading consultant in sustainable product design.

Zoe Laughlin

Co-founder and Director of the Institute of Making at UCL, Zoe works at the interface of science, art, craft, design and engineering. Her work ranges from formal experiments with matter to large-scale public exhibitions and events. The first woman to receive the Gerald Frewer Memorial Trophy by the Institution of Engineering Designers in 2019 for her outstanding contributions to design engineering. In 2018, Zoe made the award-winning documentary The Secret Life of Landfill and is currently working on a follow-up.

Associate sponsor

Dassault Systèmes

A pioneer in computer-aided design founded in 1981, Dassault Systèmes, the 3DEXPERIENCE Company, is a catalyst for human progress providing businesses and individuals with collaborative 3D virtual environments to imagine sustainable innovations. By creating virtual experience twins of the real world with their 3DEXPERIENCE platform and applications, Dassault Systèmes' customers push the boundaries of innovation, learning and production.


Cockayne and The London Community Foundation

Cockayne is a private arts foundation based in San Francisco. It supports diverse and ground-breaking arts projects in the performing, literary and visual arts in London through a donor-advised programme, ‘Cockayne Grants for the Arts’, held at The London Community Foundation. Cockayne is supporting a new art installation by leading contemporary artist, Ibrahim Mahama, created specifically for Waste Age.

Etopia and the Reuben Foundation

The Design Museum is working in collaboration with Project Etopia, supported by the Reuben Foundation, to develop a number of talks as part of the Waste Age public programme. These talks will demonstrate the ways in which the built environment can address some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, as well as inspire meaningful change within the design industry and among the Museum’s audiences.

Kusuma Trust UK

The Waste Age Family Trail and Podcast are supported by Kusuma Trust, a philanthropic family foundation that gives grants to causes, organisations and people that are making a positive difference to society. They choose partners based on shared values and mutual interests, such as creating access to opportunities, improving health and wellbeing, and investing in our communities and environment.

method Glass for Good

Launched in partnership with the Design Museum, method are delighted to be supporting the learning programme for their upcoming exhibition Waste Age. To celebrate the launch of their limited edition cut-glass hand soap bottle, made from 100% post-consumer recycled glass, the Design Museum spoke to Sean McGreevy, Senior Director Industrial Design for method.

The multi-award-winning, Zaha Hadid Architects-designed Roca London Gallery hosts a programme of exhibitions and events on the themes of architecture and design, alongside an inimitable flagship showroom of Roca’s most iconic products.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

Waste Age features cutting-edge research funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). This exhibition is part of Future Observatory, a new national programme from the Design Museum and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UKRI.

Discover more

Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama talks to us about his installation 'Fadama 400', which confronts visitors with a sheer wall of waste – a huge piece made from televisions salvaged from an Accra scrapyard dedicated to European e-waste.

Exhibition Graphic Design by SPIN @spin_studio
Design team: Eve Brook, Tony Brook, Vincent Herbet, Ewan Leslie, Jonas Zieher

Exhibition 3D design by Material Cultures

Exhibition Trailer by Tailored Media

Animation Video by Petter Schölander

Images by Felix Speller and Richard Heald