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E-Waste Makerspace at Cisco Live!

Repurposing e-waste and provoking conversations around the circular economy

In January 2020, FutureEverything, George P. Johnson and Cisco Refresh co-hosted an interactive makerspace exploring themes of the circular economy with over 1,000 participants. The makerspace, commissioned by George P. Johnson on behalf of Cisco, popped up at Cisco Live 2020, Barcelona (Cisco’s annual conference and expo attracting nearly 20,000 delegates each year) inviting attendees to reimagine and repurpose e-waste in creative ways.

Commissioned by George P. Johnson on behalf of Cisco


Cisco Live! 2020, Barcelona

As global economies and populations grow rapidly, so too does our use of resources, at a rate higher than our planet can regenerate. As a result, our global activities deplete resources and create damage at an exponential rate. We need to act now. One approach to resolving some of these issues is the circular economy – a non-linear economic system and alternative way to design, make and use material while eliminating waste and reducing overuse of vital, finite resources.

Cisco is committed to creating a circular economy, allowing their customers to reuse and repurpose products, as well as applying Cisco technology to support other people in their own circular transformations. Our brief was to explore and promote wider conversations about the CiscoRefresh initiative through hands-on activities designed to get conference delegates thinking about e-waste, it’s materiality and environmental impact. At the same time promoting awareness and reflection of the actions tech companies are taking, and encouraging delegates to consider their own impact.

“FutureEverything offer a different way of tackling communication challenges. With their help we were able to create an engaging maker space which effectively built awareness of Cisco’s role in the circular economy and encouraged IT professionals to make changes in their organisation’s behaviour.”

Zara Kerwood 

Creative Technologist, George P. Johnson Experience Marketing

The makerspace was designed to be hands on, experimental and participatory. We ran a number of activity stations including ‘The Disassembly Line’ (a production line in reverse), where Cisco e-waste such as motherboards, LCD screens and fans were taken apart and reimagined into new projects. 

In our ‘Machines Area’ we used prototyping equipment – including a 3D printer and laser cutter – within a real time production line to repurpose and reimagine e-waste materials. Here we took computer boards freshly stripped of their components, and cut them using the milling machine to create ‘new’ parts.

We used these new parts for our puzzle kits at the ‘Live Making’ station. The kits were a fun, hands-on making activity and gave delegates something to take away as their commitment to the circular economy. 

Meanwhile, our ‘Collaborative IoT Sculpture’ displayed data visualisations of global and EU e-waste statistics to get visitors thinking about the global picture. Participants were also invited to add their creations to the sculpture, which became increasingly populated with electronic projects throughout the week. 

Collaboration and community

A highlight of the project was our collaboration with local makerspaces in Manchester and Barcelona including Tinkerers lab, SokoTech, Maker Convent, Wonderhaus and Madlab sharing resources, machines and working together with staff and makers. This fostered a genuine community spirit and created a real makerspace atmosphere that quickly became a hub within the tech conference. The space provoked curiosity and drew delegates in encouraging conversations around materials, responsibility around recycling in tech companies and creative ideas for hacks and projects. 

Makerspace Materials

Keeping in line with the sustainability ethos, the Makerspace used only tools and machines that were borrowed or hired from makerspaces in Barcelona and Manchester. Similarly, materials used for the activities came from recycling PCBs, acrylic, wood and other previously used materials in makerspaces in Barcelona and Manchester. It was important we sourced and disposed of the e-waste materials in an ethical manner. At the end of the week all materials and items made were rehoused with nothing left behind, completing the circle.  The e-waste was partly donated to Tinkerers Lab to use in future projects with students, some was taken away by delegates and the rest was recycled at Green Point, a local e-waste recycling station.

Cabinet of Curiosities

Throughout the week we improvised with materials. Some of the objects we made included an IoT Open Data weather sculpture, a randomised fan object, touch screen e-waste emotion capture and more.

At FutureEverything we believe that art can have a transformative role, creating powerful ways for people to engage with contemporary issues and challenges, but can also enable us to participate, open conversations, and think differently. Bringing art to other sectors can also enable build synergies and opportunities between industry and culture; create spaces to learn from each other; but also inspire companies to push their thinking in different directions leading to innovative approaches. Opportunities like this, where industry and arts come together, share ideas and collaborate are valuable for offering new perspectives and potential actions.

1060 Visitors
204 e-waste used
422 Things made