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Design Thinking Challenge for Zanzibar: a fab-lab, why not?

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How to turn plastic bottles into sustainable business opportunities for Zanzibar, respecting the environment and using a creative recycling approach? From 24th to 26th of June, a team of designers, illustrators, architects worked on this challenge! They will thought, discussed and created new ideas at the Milan Impact Hub that, together with ACRA Foundation, promoted the “Design Thinking Challenge for Zanzibar”.

During these three exciting days twelve participants did a great effort in trying resources and innovate, through design thinking, plastic bottles and to solve environmental and social challenges emerged with the project “Valorisation of solid waste in Zanzibar: social business for the development of the recycled plastic supply chain” co-funded by the Cariplo Foundation and Regione Lombardia.

An important project

The protagonist of the project is Zanrec Plastic Ltd., a social enterprise from Zanzibar promoted by ACRA Foundation. Zanrec Plastic LTD promotes the collection and recycle of plastics otherwise burned in open dumps all over the Island. The activities undertaken by the enterprise not only have a positive impact on the environment and on the health of local population, but also these activities involve local cooperatives of waste pickers that are fairly paid for the recover materials. The goal of the Challenge was to creatively support the Zanzibar social enterprise in designing prototypes for the management and disposal of the plastic.

Brainstorming, infographics and interviews helped participants, divided into four groups, to get to know the life in Zanzibar and the problems connected with disposals management. They tried to create a connection with “local users” identifying themselves with some “profiles” through interviews and this let them understand users’ needs; all the creative process was done through the human centered design approach, intuitions and creative ideas.

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The young designers worked together, constantly cooperating. Of the four final ideas presented to the jury, what emerged was the collective production and the productive cooperation of participant. The idea that won is very ambitious: the creation of a fab-lab in which plastic bag and packages will be compressed through modular presses to get components to create useful and commonly used house furniture or desks and chairs for schools...

Keeping in mind a perspective that of a flexible and work in progress solution, our designers have also participated collectively in a final revision of the 4 different ideas, creating a 'collective super-prototype' that would enhance the suggestions and feedback emerged from the jury and by all actors involved in the process. It is great the idea of a House of Plastic – a sort of Ikea / Fab Lab where to transform bottles into objects and furnishings of public utility - and place where to raise awareness and enable local capacity and competence in order to extend the life cycle of plastic. The idea is to involve not only the individuals who could come to the house of plastic to turn the bottles into furniture, but in a design community and even the tourists and the local community, potential donors for funding, even in crowdfunding, furnishing a school or creating useful objects such as rulers, school materials ...

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Fabrizio Furchì, is 33 years old with a degree in eco-design at Politecnico di Torino and he will be the lucky ‘ambassador’ that on July 9 in Stone Town will present the results of the Design Thinking Challenge for Zanzibar during the final event of the project and will work with Zanrec Plastic Ltd. and our partners in Zanzibar to the viability of the prototype.

The Design Thinking Challenge for Zanzibar was an opportunity to develop the potential of creativity and transform difficult challenges into opportunities. Thanks to the ideas and solutions collected, the social enterprise Zanrec Plastic Ltd. will thus expand its activities and open up to new sustainable businesses.


Activities realized with Zanrec Plastic Ltd. were supported by Regione Lombardia and Fondazione Cariplo and in partnership with ACRA, Impact Hub Milan, LVIA, the Foundation Ivo de Carneri and Legambiente. . The local partners are the Department of Environment, Labayka, Asilia Cooperatives and ZATI.

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