Ecotrophies: challenging plastic waste

I love it when a new project lands in my inbox:

“Dear Leap Team:
I work on a programme called the European Social Innovation Competition – it is an annual competition for social innovators across Europe and Horizon 2020 countries. Every year there is a different theme and this year, the theme is Challenging Plastic Waste. We have an awards ceremony at the end of October, and we would like to have a trophy designed that reflects the year’s theme.”

Rad! Awesome. Where do we sign up?
It doesn’t take much for us to get excited about designing ecotrophies, and when I open an email like that the wheels are already spinning and all of the recycled material possibilities start bouncing around my head like frogs in a bottle.

20 days to turn around a project and deliver the finished ecotrophies to Brussels may sound like a lot (it’s also enough time to lose 40 million acres of rainforest) but in the trophy world, once you factor in design, collaboration, and manufacturing, this is tight.

The trophies had to involve recycled plastic. They had to utilise the purpose of the programme and ceremony, and not merely be a “nice thing to look at”. We had to give the trophies some meaning, and make them embody the work and ethos of those people and companies at the ceremony.

We bandied around our concepts as a team. There were some great, some bad, and some that were downright weird. The tight timescale weeded out the side-liners. We had no time for faffing; we had to get to the point and make it great for the planet, for the people involved, and also within budget.

I’ll save you the long adjective-heavy descriptions of the materials and their characteristics – how the light shimmers off the surfaces to create light butterflies on the wall and that kind of thing. We like substance here, yeah, of course, it’ll look awesome but that sustainability factor ups the purposeful ante.

We started with the awards theme of challenging plastic waste, and took it as far as developing the project around the re-appropriation of plastic waste. That was how Corey and I found ourselves wading out into the muddy banks of the Truro river that runs past the window of our studio to collect plastic discarded by the heathens of our city. Bottle lids and yoghurt pots were the most common find, (as well as a single shotgun shell), all of which led me to ponder “who the fuck walks through a town centre eating a yoghurt?”

cutting up plastic litter collected from the river in truro to make recycled plastic ecotrophies

Once the plastic was removed from the river and cleaned, our vision was realised and with the clock ticking down our raw materials and specification drawings went to the magic teams around the UK that we work with to turn our files into physical artefacts.

After some begging and very nearly resorting to bribery (only joking about the second part), our amazing suppliers put their machines into overtime and helped us to deliver the results you can see in these photos. Pure and undiluted sustainability in trophy form, ready for the winners in Brussels to receive as a symbol of all of the absolutely amazing work that they do to make the world a better place.

Nathan Lance
Senior Creative

winners of the 2019 european social innovation awards

If you’d like to find out more about our Ecotrophies then click through to or get in touch with us at the studio to discuss what we can design and produce for your competition or awards ceremony.

four finished ecotrophies for the european social innovation awards