Trash talk: who uses which reusable product? User insights and design opportunities for single-use alternatives

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nad
Author: Herweyers, Laure; Du Bois, Els; Moons, Ingrid
Series: ICED
Institution: University of Antwerp
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 3641-3650
DOI number:


Single-use products often end up in the environment as waste, threatening ecosystems and human life. This indicates a need to transition towards sustainable reuse routines. In this study, we investigate to what extent reusable products are already established in society and what design properties users require. We compare the results between user clusters and countries. To create a meaningful list of reusable products to investigate, we distinguish four categories based on typical barriers by means of focus groups (n=3) and interviews (n=32). Next, we did a survey (n=3000) in three countries (Belgium, Russia, U.S.) to define user clusters and investigate product usage and design requirements. Most established products are hard-material products such as lunch boxes, while intimate hygiene products, such as menstrual cups, are not established yet. Multifunctionality and compactness are the most indicated product requirements. There are significant differences between countries and clusters for both research questions. We conclude that different types of users have different needs: while a sharing system might work for one group, a customizable option would be more suitable for others.

Keywords: Long-term reuse behaviour, Sustainability, Circular economy, Cross-country study, User centred design

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