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Unlocking Possibilities: Rethinking plastic hygiene products through systemic design and social practice theory

Format: Workshops, RSD12, RSD12 Workshops, RSD12-ONLINE: Entanglements of interest, Topic: Socioecological Design

Ayşe Kaplan Sarısaltık

Single-use menstrual products, baby diapers, and wet wipes are examples of products that contain plastics and pose a danger to the environment and health. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report (2021), single-use menstrual products, such as tampons and pads, contribute to increasing plastic waste since they are usually packaged individually and can have up to 90% plastic content. However, they are not as visible to consumers and researchers as other highly discussed products, such as plastic bottles, bags, and packaging.

According to recent studies (Peberdy et al., 2019; Tu et al., 2021), people are generally unaware of the amount of plastic used in menstrual products and baby diapers. This lack of awareness affects their choices and contributes to environmental concerns such as pollution and waste. Additionally, wet wipes made from non-woven fabrics are also a concern due to their harmful effects on the environment, which are often overlooked because of insufficient social awareness (Zhang et al., 2021).
The lack of focus on some single-use plastic products, such as menstrual products, baby diapers, and wet wipes, might be related to social taboo and stigma in the case of menstrual products and lack of awareness due to the difficulty of recognising plastic ingredients with tactile and visual senses and the absence of labelling information. Diversifying the single-use plastic products included in research and bringing consumers’ attention to the existence of plastics in various products can expand and strengthen efforts related to coping with the negative effects of plastic consumption. Changing particular behaviour or practice in isolation is not effective since they are all connected to other conditions and structures. Evaluating the links and outcomes in complex systems like plastic consumption requires system-level lenses.

The workshop, developed in the context of the research project REDUCE—rethinking everyday plastics, aims to explore plastic hygiene products to find intervention points for reducing plastic consumption. The results of the workshop contribute to the research to deal with the challenge of identifying paths toward reducing consumption. The workshop experiments with combining social practice theory and systemic design and intends to broaden the field and contribute to interdisciplinary studies using a variety of approaches.

KEYWORDS: plastic consumption, hygiene, systemic design, social practice theory

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Citation Data

Author(s): Ayşe Kaplan Sarısaltık
Year: 2023
Title: Unlocking Possibilities: Rethinking plastic hygiene products through systemic design and social practice theory
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/plastic-hygiene-products
Host: Georgetown University
Location: ONLINE
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 3 July 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404