The latest stories about our transition toward resource recovery from our community hub in West End, Brisbane.

  • The SORT Team

Why we’re design-led

Updated: Jan 29, 2018

'Design itself has been (and still is) a fertile ground for social innovation. Indeed it is one of the most dynamic.'

— Ezio Manzini


In October 2017 the SORT team officially moved away from our roots in community recycling to set up a community-engaged workspace in Queensland's capital city, Brisbane. The SORT Hub is based smack bang in the middle of West End, making this diverse and tight-knit community landscape the local context to our global concept: source separation, resource recovery and learning.


In recent years, Brisbane has seen a proliferation of unit blocks and high rise developments spring up as part of the city council’s drive for affordable medium density living. As rapid change occurs in many of the world’s urban environments, the increasing urgency to redirect current, linear waste management systems is a major challenge as we move toward more sustainable modes of living. In fact, managing and minimising waste is one of the greatest ways to have an impact on climate change!


What does this mean for me?


Well, if you’re living in Australia you may already be well aware of the concerns around our waste, as an affluent country with a small manufacturing industry. Australians produce over two tonnes of waste per person each year, recycling approximately 58% of waste as a whole and landfilling the rest. The War on Waste series by the ABC is just one example that's recently highlighted many of the issues surrounding Australia's waste problems; myth-busting and conversation-starting a healthy national discussion.


With our history as a nation-wide community recycler, SORT approaches the complex challenge of waste with the underpinning belief that the current system of co-mingled landfill needs to change. The ‘take, make and dispose’ model is broken and has some pretty serious environmental, economic and social ramifications.


The good news is, problems designed into existence can be designed out of existence.


Or at least disrupted by designing viable alternatives with communities. We begin by recoding the meaning in waste from dirty and out of sight, to an untapped useful and valuable resource. But to recover the value within our discarded materials, it must be kept separated. SORT views this problem through a design lens.


To make this happen, we're triggering a major collaboration between design and community. SORT connects and collaborates with community members, stakeholders, architects, designers, academics, students and other not-for-profits to co-design meaningful processes around resource separation and recovery. Working with community means we can share ideas and expertise that can lead to an adaptable and resilient system. As part of SORT’s community engagement, a suite of learning and training opportunities are available from our Hub in West End. Education and job creation is a crucial component to SORT’s vision, as new job industries emerge and digital technologies progress.

As one of the oldest suburbs in Brisbane, West End sits on a peninsula which makes it easy to map the material flows. The local area is widely known to be politically-tense, epitomising diversity and valuing community. While West End’s landscape shifts with development and population growth, the community remains resilient in their embrace of innovation, creativity and social activism.


Our vision starts here in this local context, which provides us with the framework for SORT’s global concept. Our balance between small and local, open and connected (Ezio Manzini’s cosmopolitan localism) facilitates a flow of ideas for social innovation. The current waste management system in Brisbane has been designed for us, rather than with us. Economic and political rationales underpin this current system, rarely considering the social and environmental ramifications. A shift in this area is loaded with citizen democracy and agency. To empower this shift SORT engages local Brisbane communities in designing their preferred futures, mobilising the ideas and expertise to redirect the value from our resources back into our communities.


Watch our journey here.