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Let’s empower citizens to make the right decisions!

We held two outposts in Melbourne on 26/5 and 9/6. For two weeks we were #trackingplastics and interviewing Melbournians on plastic wastes.

Photo of Sauyeng Dixon
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The following is the collective findings from the OpenIDEO Melbourne community. We hosted two workshops, the first one on 26th May to kick-off the challenge and the second one two weeks later on 9th June, to share learnings and shape insights. In between the workshops, our group conducted several researches which informed the learnings and insights.  

The research we did:

  • We captured learnings from #trackingplastics in several areas: supermarket, market, cafe, home and office.
  • We interviewed users: street intercepts, extreme users, family, couples, 30 something or teenagers:

Watch Isabel tell us about how to be "professionally stupid" when interviewing for consumer research:

Watch the full interview of Paula, extreme user:

And photos from her home:

  • We watched documentaries: #WarOnWasteAU provided great insights through their own research and documentary

  • We reflected on circular economy successes: milk and glass beer bottles which could be returned empty and exchanged for money
  • We started to map the stakeholder ecosystem: manufacturers, packaging companies, government, council, local actors or lobbies
  • We explored scientific thought leadership: alternative to plastic, new molecules that can break-down plastic etc. 


Plastic we encountered:

  • Plastic bags
  • Plastic wrap around food or liquid
  • Plastic wrap around solid items (ie. plastic bottles)
  • Individual lolly sachets
  • Plastic bottles (water, milk, soda)
  • Coffee cups (plastic linen) and lids
  • Tetrapak straws
  • Take-away containers and plastic cutleries
  • Plastic to wrap blankets distributed in planes
  • Gladwrap

Key point of discussions/questions:

  • Manufacturers won't go on this journey if it is not economically viable
  • Who are the key stakeholders in Australia? Council, Government, Lobbies etc.
  • Plastic bags are one of the most important sources of plastic waste that ends up in landfill (
  • Local initiatives exist to recycle soft plastic, such as REDcycle (
  • Plastic recycling is complex even though a level system should help (  

Insights from our research:

  • The use of plastics is ingrained from our youngest and formative years
  • The lack of information and the inconsistency to recycle generate a lot of frustration within consumers (different in every council in Australia)
  • The problem is bigger than the product itself and largely from manufacturers

Watch Caurie impersonate a polyethylene molecule and explains what it's like to be teased by his friends and called a food condom... :)

  • There's a growing realisation and anger about the impact on a dying planet
  • Even though most of us feel we made conscious choices to contribute to the environment, purchase and consumption of plastics is deeply ingrained in our daily routine
  • Despite their awareness of the plastic consumption environmental impacts, many consumers don't recycle out of laziness and complacency
  • More "eco-warriors" are getting progressively noticed and praised by consumers
  • When attempting to recycle, consumers get frustrated by having to decipher what is recyclable or not for one single product
  • Some feel it's the companies’ corporate responsibility to guide consumers in the war on waste and feel public shaming is a potential solution
  • Giving too many choices to the consumers makes it hard to make the right decision (recycling)
  • People don’t trust that corporations will do the right thing: they don’t know where the plastic goes once in the recycle bin
  • People feel powerless and choose the path of least resistance

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

Our research targeted the 3 use case provided. In the next phase of the project, we will use our workshop to specifically address the persona and use case that makes the most sense in our local context.

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

Our discussions led to the general conclusion that there is a ton of misinformation that contributes to confusion and prevents consumers from making the right decisions. There is a sense of powerlessness that comes with distrust in government authorities and corporations. Many are asking to be better informed, many are ready to use their consumer powers to address the plastic waste challenge.

Tell us about yourself

I am an Exp Architect at Salesforce and the MD of a non for profit TheHakkas. With TheHakkas, we take the Melbourne community through the circular design challenge program. A group of 15 Melbournians contributed and participated in the research.

Attachments (1)

OpenIdeo_Plastics_PY Nathie_2017-06-08.pdf

@Pierre Yves Nathie showed us successes in addressing the plastic waste challenge downstream


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