issue of reducing plastic bag use: retailer environment

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The course is over.

It was intensive but finally we made it to the end. Here is our final report containing our proposal for The Ministry of the Environment + some thoughts for further implications. We also prepared a communicative leaflet for the Finnish retailers & video to show how our plan would work from the perspective of the customer. We want to thank our tutors: Seungho Lee, Hella Hernberg, Juha Kronqvist, The Ministry of the Environment, all Finnish retailers, all experts who helped us to understand how the world works & everyone who was involved in the project.

We hope this important work won’t stop & finally we make world a better place!



click on image to enlarge

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To illustrate the Plastic bag reducing plan more clearly, we decided to animate a film in order to show the scenario of how to rises awareness of reducing plastic bag usage. The film well describes how would this plan implement in our everyday life.

Story development
:  Ekaterina Ohotnikova, Pietro Duchi, Fangyi Lee, Salla Seppälä & Aura Koljonen

Illustration: Salla Seppälä
Film editing: Fangyi Lee
Voice recording: Salla Seppälä
Music credibility: Topher Mohr, Alex Elena/ YouTube Audio Library


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Meetings with project stakeholders & experts

Field Research

Design Probes


  • store behavior observation done
  • customer in-store interviews – done
  • design probe: Durable Bag Kits + self-documentation  done
  • in-store poster observation – done

Preparing Final

  • Final presentation + some design extras for communicating our ideas better done


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Every off season, as the monsoon rains arrive and the onshore winds strengthen, Bali’s western beaches are besieged by plastic. Beach cleaning operations make the tideline bearable, but until now there have been few initiatives to strike at the heart of the problem. Under mounting pressure from ocean goers, the Governor of Bali, Made Mangku Pastika, told local surfers that he would ban the manufacture, distribution and use of plastic bags on Bali if one million signatures were gained, so let’s hold him to his word. Sign the petition HERE.




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To get better understanding of some things that are puzzling us, we met two experts from the Ministry of the Environment, Tarja-Riitta Blauberg and Sauli Rouhinen. We had questions e.g. about legislation process, communication, packaging and, naturally, plastic bags. This is what we got:

  • The Ministry doesn’t have much resources for awareness campaigns, and such actions are mainly done via NGOs.
  • We’re interested in the process and backgrounds of retailers charging for plastic carrier bags in grocery stores. Blauberg didn’t know how the retailers ended up charging for them, but she told who might know. Now we’re waiting for possible answer via email.
  • We were interested in what tools the Ministry is using to communicate with retailers. We were told that  different stakeholders are taken in commitees that are preparing things or they are asked for a statement about what the ministry is working on. There are several hearings in different stages. Mainly done through different associations.
  • When EU-legislation goes through, a civil servant in the Ministry makes an implementation plan – the target can be for example a new law or a voluntary agreement between the retailers. Then the Ministry starts hearing different stakeholders and probably forms a new committee around the topic.
  • EU allows member countries to ban or charge for plastic bags, if they want, but most likely the retailers will be against it.
  • Packaging directive theoretically prohibits over-packing, but it’s impossible to control and nobody’s punished for doing it.
  • At the moment Ministry has actually no idea how much plastic bags we use. Finnish average has been told to be 55 plastic carrier bags per citizen per year, but it’s just an estimate from retailers, and the number of hevi-bags no-one can tell. So before reducing they need to figure out what is the starting point. (It’s in a way relieving to hear – so far nobody can prove our own calculations wrong…)

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The purpose of spreading probes is to discover hidden problems of using durable HEVI bag. After collecting all possible documentary such as booklet, photos, following interviews…etc. from trial users, the next step is analysis: in order to interpret those mass data into useful insights for our project.

In our case, we want to dig out what are the circumstances that can make durable bags succeed so we utilize affinity map again which helps us cluster users’ considerable sum of feedback into several categorized insights:
1.Default behaviour – learning new routines
2.Happy users spread the word – awareness into action
3.What shops offer – mainstream choice
4.Price matters – affordable option
5.Functional and attractive product

At this point, the analysis outcome not only confirms some of our assumptions about uses’ behaviour toward durable HEVI bag, but also gives us a new key point to encourage more people using durable HEVE bag: “Happy users spread the world” which would definitely be a new opportunity spot to nudge people and makes our solution more convincing as well.


Users’ self-documentation about how they utilize durable HEVI bag in their everyday life


Affinity map of probe’s results

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On Monday we did most of the interviews with the people who had been using our durable bags in the past week. Our intention was first and foremost to create an informal atmosphere: the point of HCD Research is to delve deeper into the real motives for action: by having friendly conversations instead of sterile surveys, this could be achieved.

We offered our guests coffee and pulla, and they explained their experience with the bags. Most people seemed to like the bags, and said they would keep using them, even for uses we hadn’t thought of (as a small carrier bag, for example).

We got an insight in the important role that relationships play in the use of such bags, from the interest they raised in one person’s daughter, to the influence the girlfriend had on another participant. In general, the bags seemed easy enough to use, if not for all fruits and vegetables, for most.

There were doubts on usability issues, such as washing and carrying, but what interested us most was the feeling some users reported of being ‘different’ when they used such bags in stores. This confirms our initial assumptions that the behaviour of customers in stores is heavily influenced by norms.

We also asked the people we interviewed if they would be willing to pay for single use hevi bags: the answer was an almost unanimous ‘no’. They would pay for durable bags, of course, because they were perceived as an object with its own value; when asked how much they’d be ready to pay, there were huge differences in the prices, from 10 cents to 5 euros.