UX Design

Mitigating the Use of Plastic Utensils

10 Weeks
Project Overview
Plastic wastes has been a global issue for years. Plastic utensils is one of a serious problem that we face everyday. How might we convince more people to use less single-use plastic utensil? This was the theme of my project in the contextual research class. Throughout the 10-week course, our team conducted an in depth research to understand the problem and identify potential opportunities.
Read Process Book

Plastic Utensils Pollution In America

In the United States, more than 100 million plastic utensils are used every day, and they can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. With the rise of online food shopping and delivery, the demand for single-use plastic utensils keeps growing. Also, given the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, people nowadays prefer using single-use utensils to assure a high level of hygiene on tabletops. Apart from generating wastes, consuming plastics also creates many negative impacts on our planet, such as water pollution and wildlife endangerment.

HUNT Statement

How might we convince more young people to use less single-use plastic utensils and create a trend towards reusability?

We listed out our assumptions before we started conducting research
  • Students use plastic utensils because they don't have other options.
  • People do not know any other alternatives instead of using a plastic utensil.
  • The switching cost is expensive to customers.
  • There is an increased amount of plastic waste because of lockdowns.
  • Restaurants use plastic utensils because they are cheap.
  • Consumers are aware of the harm of plastic utensils but decide to use them anyway.
  • Restaurants are NOT proactive in seeking other sustainable ways to replace plastic utensils.
Research Methods


We designed a survey on the Usage of Plastic Utensils for people in the US. Here are some of the research questions:

  • In the past 7 days, how often did you eat/order out?
  • How often do you use plastic utensils?
  • How important is it for you that plastic utensils should be provided in a full set (Fork, Knife, Spoon) instead of individually?
  • Do you keep the unused utensils?
  • Do you recycle the unused utensils?
  • Why do you use plastic utensils?
  • How often do you bring your own utensils when you go out to eat?
Research Methods

Secondary Research

We researched and analyzed newspaper articles, journals, scholarly sources, and videos to build a foundation of knowledge about the circular economy, and the plastic utensils use in the USA.

Research Methods

Co-creation and Sensory Detail Workshop

We designed a one-hour-long workshop and invited 4 participants to share their views and experience about plastic utensils.  We also showed them existing utensils and different materials and got their opinions on them.

Research Result

Key Findings

From Observation
People are willing to bring a bottle, but no one brings their own utensils.
Many people drink without a straw
From Survey
(56 response)
respondents go out to eat at least one time in the past 7 days
respondents think that it is not at all important that utensils should be provided in a full set
respondents keep the unused utensils
respondents never bring their own utensils when they go out to eat
respondents rated themselves as "often" for using plastic utensils.
is the key reason why people use plastic utensils.
From Co-creation Workshop
(4 participants)
Texture and materials are important to users
Students have a certain level of awareness about sustainability
Data Analysis

Pull & Push Factors

We listed out the pull factors that can motivate people to use more reusable utensil. Meanwhile, we listed out the push factors that can discourage people to use plastic utensils.


Key Insights

The cleanliness issue is the key factor that discourages young people from carrying their own utensils.
Utensil Choices
Different people have different eating habits and preferences on choosing the right utensil set that is the best fit to them
Customer Values
Customers are willing to sacrifice convenience if it helps the environment

Potential Intervention: Print-on-Demand Website

About the concept:
Build a website that allows customers to create their own utensils by themselves. It can provide the benefits below:

  • Control the quality of production by using print-on-demand approach, i.e. reduce waste.Attract
  • more people to use reusable utensils through personalization
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