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I'm not the bad guy!

Street intercepts conducted in Melbourne, Australia to understand how they feel towards plastic use and recycling.

Photo of Sylvain Emeric
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This contribution forms part of our broader research with OpenIDEO Melbourne. Street Intercepts is a research technique where several people are interviewed "in-situ". For each person (and small business) interviewed we asked:

  • How do you feel about plastic usage in Australia?
  • How do you feel about plastic recycling in Australia and particularly in Melbourne?
  • Tell us which of those plastic items a recyclable? (note: we had displayed a bag, a coffee cup with its lid, a bag of chip, a food take-away contained, a bottle of water and a bottle of soda)

Respondents provided open answers to each of those questions, which proved to be very insightful! Below is a summary of what consumers feel towards plastic and the key insights that came out of the Street Intercept.  

Isabel presenting back the insights from the Street Intercept

Key insights:

  • Plastic isn't the bad guy here! Plastic has great material properties which is why it's been widely used. It also provides convenience.
  • Everyone interviewed think we should do more and they care about recycling. 
  • Information about recycling is largely inconsistent. For example, most of consumers thought the coffee cup is recyclable. It also depends on each council with no consistency across state or the country.
  • Government and council should play a crucial role in educating consumers and creating adequate policies.
  • Consumers are frustrated as they feel they are doing their part but to do more they feel powerless as they lack information and means to do the right thing.
  • A few people shared that it's a system challenge and believe the answer is broader than a particular product wrap or material. The whole value chain has to be looked at. 

Key points of discussions/questions/caveat:

  • Most of people interviewed were environmentally conscious. Results might be different if we had a broader spectrum of the population.
  • No one was certain whether one item or the other one was recyclable. 
  • A few people pointed out that there are only two bins in Australia to recycle whilst other countries in Europe have implemented 3-4 bins to split items.


How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

This research relates to all the use cases: Single-use sachet for liquid consumer products, Bottle caps and tear-offs, and Straws and take-away coffee lids as consumers had to provide their insights on several plastic items, which includes each of the use-cases.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Customers are ready for initiatives that contribute to using less plastic. However, they feel powerless to do so are the right platform are not in place. It also shows that the challenge is beyond the product itself but rather with government, manufacturers and lobbies. This will drive our study to address a broader scope than the packaging itself as this is only one part of the equation.

Tell us about yourself

I work in Digital & Innovation advisory at Capgemini and I am the co-founder of a non for profit TheHakkas. With TheHakkas, we are taking the Melbourne community through the circular design challenge program. This contribution forms part of our broader research with OpenIDEO Melbourne.


Join the conversation:

Photo of mary abasi

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Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Sylvain Emeric 

There are 3 days left in the ideas phase of the circular design challenge! It would be great to see your ideas there, submit your idea via -

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Sylvain,

Are you on LinkedIn? We have a Circular Design Guide Group -

This group is about design & the circular economy. It's run jointly by IDEO and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Share your learnings, questions & success stories here.

Photo of Sylvain Emeric

Hi Kate Rushton . Just subscribed to the LinkedIn group! Thank you.

Photo of Lauren Ito

Sylvain Emeric thank you so much for compiling this incredible research by the OpenIDEO Melbourne Chapter! This research will definitely be helpful context for contributors as they continue to progress in the ideas phase, which launched today!

From speaking with your users, was there one particular use case of small-format plastics they seemed the most familiar with? Looking forward to seeing you in the ideas phase, either with an idea submission or providing feedback to ideas in our community!

Photo of Sylvain Emeric

Thanks Lauren Ito ! Plastic bags, coffee cups and general plastic wrap (around food or items) were plastic most mentioned by users. We will definitely take part to the ideas phase as well as collaborating with other participants :)

Photo of Sauyeng Dixon

Was awesome insights Sylvain Emeric that triggered passionate debates amongst the group during our OpenIdeo Outpost on 9th June in Melbourne. Looking forward to using the insights in the ideation phase in 2 weeks!

Photo of Pierre Nathie

This robust grassroots collection of perceptions around our pervasive use of plastics will certainly help identifying prevailing personas/behaviours and possibly point at potential mitigations; well done!