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Have these students reinvented the rubbish bin?

Their DropBucket is sustainable, easy to store, transport and assemble, and when you’re finished with it, it’s recyclable

Have these students reinvented the rubbish bin?

Text by Mandi Keighran Photos⁄Erika Svensson

What’s the big idea?
DropBucket – a simple and sustainable waste bin for festivals and events.

What makes a DropBucket different to a normal bin?
DropBucket is made from recycled cardboard, is foldable for easy transport, storage and carrying, and can be put up in just a few seconds. It can also be reused a number of times (depending on the kind of waste that’s put into it) and then thrown out or recycled.

Who’s behind it?
Two young designers, Dane Marie S Berggreen and Heiða G Nolsøe, from the Faroe Islands.

Where did the idea come from?
Nolsøe and Berggreen met at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in 2011, where they were studying design engineering. The brief for their first-semester project was to work in a group to come up with a solution for waste management in Copenhagen. “There were 12 groups, all designing trash cans,” says Nolsøe. “We didn’t want just a nice design, we wanted to think about something really new.” Realising that waste management was often an afterthought for events organisers, they created an affordable, durable, and portable bin that was also sustainable.  

What happened next?
“Our professor told us that DropBucket was a fantastic idea that we should continue to develop,” says Nolsøe. So, Nolsøe and Berggreen put together a contract and spent the next year researching and developing the product. In 2013, DropBucket was awarded second place at the annual Innovation Award in Aarhus, which led to DTU and Aarhus sponsoring the first production run.

How did two first-year students develop a successful product?
Dedication. They joined an accelerator programme at DTU, and spent the year making over 50 prototypes, doing materials research, and speaking to manufacturers and garbage collectors.

What did the rubbish collectors have to say?
“We were asking them what they thought the main problems were with waste bins for events,” says Nolsøe. “They said it was really difficult to put enough trash cans at events as it’s expensive, they get stolen or destroyed, and they’re heavy and time-consuming to set up. Most of the time, event organisers wouldn’t put anything up, and would just clean up after the event.”

When did DropBucket make its first appearance?
In 2013 at Copenhagen’s Roskilde Festival. “We called just 14 days before the festival,” says Nolsøe. “The organisers said it was way too late, but we told them about our idea, and they gave us the opportunity to show it to them.” They loved it, and – seeing an environmentally friendly way to cut down on waste – decided to give DropBucket a go. It was a success, and the trash cans have been a feature at Roskilde Festival ever since. “After the festival and the media coverage we got, investors began to approach us,” says Nolsøe. “In March 2014, P/F Royndin, an investor from the Faroe Islands, invested DKK 1.3 million (NOK1.6m) into DropBucket in return for a 27 per cent share of the company.”

How did the investment help the company?
“It made it possible to think bigger and take more risks,” says Nolsøe. The two designers put their studies on hold for a semester to focus on growing the business, and there are now four full-time employees, three new DropBuckets for commercial and residential use, and distribution throughout the Faroe Islands and Iceland. They’re also in talks with distributors in Germany and Austria. 

Where else has DropBucket been used?
DropBucket has been used at over 200 festivals and events in Denmark, from Strøm Festival to Copenhagen’s Harbour Festival, and events at the University of Copenhagen. It’s also been used by all the major municipalities in Denmark, and at museums, offices and fashion fairs.

How have people responded?
Since launching, thousands of DropBuckets have been sold. Earlier this year, DropBucket won one of the world’s most prestigious design awards, the Red Dot Design Award: Best of the Best. They are now available at Red Dot Museum shops in Germany, Taipei, and Singapore, as well as the Red Dot webshop.

What does the professor who encouraged them think of their success?
“He’s really impressed,” says Nolsøe. “We never expected it to go this far, but it’s been a fantastic journey!”

What’s next?
Both designers are doing their master’s in product development part-time, and have a few other projects they want to launch in the future. “For now, though,” says Nolsøe, “the focus is on building DropBucket.”

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