Designing for Green and Grey: Insights from Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles

Taesun Kim, Sang Don Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Recognizing modern society’s multiple risks, this study examines single-use plastic water bottles at the intersection of environmental degradation and societal carelessness for the elderly. While prioritising economic profits and plastic waste, we have neglected bottles’ typical poor openability for older people. Thus, we evaluated the openability of bottles with environmentally friendly and socially inclusive designs in South Korea by comparing older and younger adults’ experiences. Integrating different attributes than existing studies that analyse opening torque or one-handed opening, the test results show that older adults experience the poorest two-handed openability when bottles have both a weight thickness lower than 14.42 g and an easily squeezable bottle structure. In South Korea, companies advocate eco-friendliness by valuing lighter weight with less plastic and support user-friendliness by adopting easily squeezed sidewall patterns, while the industry maintains broad opening torque regulations; however, we show this combination exceeds older users’ capabilities. That is, for openability, bottles need to keep a weight thickness greater than 12 g, abandon easily squeezed sidewall patterns or reduce the opening torque regulation range to 100 N-cm. These socially favourable but ecologically adverse measures will be sustainable when the efficient linear economy transitions to an effective circular economy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1423
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Environmentally friendly
  • Older adults
  • Single-use plastic water bottles
  • Socially inclusive


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