What makes users circulate stuff?

Elin Ljungberg and Sandra Sköld, both studying Industrial Design Engineering at Chalmers, is working on their master’s thesis; “What makes users circulate stuff? User incentives and barriers in circular consumption“. The project of 60 credits started during the fall of 2020 and will finish by the summer of 2021. It aims to investigate users’ behaviors and consumption patterns related to the three consumption phases; obtainment, use, and clearance. During the first half of the project, a literature review and user study were conducted. A total of 100 users participated in the user study and they were either interviewed or took part in a diary study with accompanying focus groups.

So far, key insights regard incentives and barriers for users to engage in circular consumption. The distinct incentives are the economic benefit and the sustainability approach. People also find it beneficial to take part in circular consumption as it enables them to create new social connections or to get access to a new community. The barriers mainly regard hygiene, functional performance, access, and mistrust. The major difference found between the literature and the empirical data is the dedication and ability to act sustainably, it varies between the two studies and also between different consumption options. The literature study highlighted that knowledge about the clearance phase is not as thorough as for obtainment and use. Therefore, clearance will be in focus when Elin and Sandra progress to the next step of the project.

The project’s final aim is to deliver a model or method that enriches designers with insights about user behaviour and choices. The continuation of the project therefore involves converting the findings into a model or method. The outcome is intended to be used as guidance for designers to create circular products, services, or systems.