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"Would You Like a Straw With That?"

A service training model that promotes a circular economy.

Photo of Naman Mandhan
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While conducting interviews and observations, a recurring theme that emerged around small-format plastics was the convenience that they provide to our everyday lives. Because of the ease with which these items are available, it has now become a part of our fast-paced culture to grab those extra ketchup packets to go with the burger that we are eating on-the-go, or to pick up a handful of plastic utensils "just in case".

To supplement the redesign of small format plastic packaging, a circular economy also requires a culture shift that asks people to stop and think about how they can behave in a manner that aligns with the goals of a circular economy.

This culture shift can begin with a question as simple as, "Would you like a straw to go with that?"

The idea is to introduce a training program for servers at restaurants that teaches them to ask questions and offer suggestions that can help create a dynamic where thinking circular is the new norm. Some examples of questions and suggestions that can be provided are:

  1. "How many ketchup packets would you like?"
  2. "Would you like a straw with your water?"
  3.  "Please consider putting your used coffee lids in this bucket to help us raise $10,000 for our local charity."
  4. "You can save $1.50 per order by bringing a reusable container the next time you get coffee from us."

In this fast-paced world, providing customers with an avenue to think about the consequences of their actions on the environment can go a long way to developing a culture that thinks in terms of a circular economy.

Idea Title

Stop, Think, Act

Where are you / your team located?

Detroit, Michigan

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

This idea offers a shift in consumer culture by provoking them to rethink their dependence on small-format plastic items.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

This idea applies to the single use satchets for liquid consumer products, as well as straws and take-away coffee lids use cases.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

Large cities, where fast food restaurants and "to-go" options are widely available.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

This idea emerged from a group brainstorming session with the OpenIDEO Detroit Chapter.

Tell us about your work experience

I work as a Design Engineer at an automotive company, facilitate innovation workshops for employees, and help lead the OpenIDEO Detroit chapter.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Soren

Using single-use straws is a American invention from the 1950ies and then exported to the rest of the world. For many of us (not born in the US) straws are something only kids use! Stephen Fry calls it "infantilism" (see 8:43): Isn't that difficult to overcome? (PS: Don't get us wrong, we really like USA and what it has done/do for us!)

Photo of Naman Mandhan

Hi Hans & Soren!

Thank you so much for your insight. It definitely makes me think about the cultural differences that go into the use of small-format plastic packaging. What according to you are some key cultural aspects of where you were born that encourage adults from not using straws?

Photo of Soren

Naman Mandhan Well, the times are different now but when we grew up straws were only used at children's birthday parties (or for old and sick people) and there were no fastfood chains around to change that.

Statler: The internet is a completely different culture isn't it
Waldorf: You said it. Everything here is immediately followed by sarcastic comments and nasty responses.
Statler: Yup, we're finally where we belong.