Consumption of plastic products are detrimental to the environment; this is primarily due to the product being unable to decompose immediately. When the plastic products are disposed as waste to the environment, they continue to remain in different environmental conditions and subsequently mixed with other elements of the environment. Thin polythene products such as polythene bags cause considerable damage to the environment (Jalil et al., 2013). The public continue to consume various products which are harmful to the environment and thereby causing considerable harm to the environment as well as for themselves (Steg & Vlek, 2009). Taking positive action could lead to saving the environment (Midden et al., 2007).

The general consumption of products and services are linked with environmental impact; since the rapid depletion of resources cannot accommodate the replenishment of these products. Resultantly, appropriate steps require to be undertaken, to rectify the above issue (Mukherji & Mukherji, 2012). Sustainable consumption is the solution to solve this problem according to Demarque et al., (2005). The customers have a responsibility to ensure they consume in a manner which will minimize wastage and mitigate the impact to the environment. Consumption of polythene products is contrary to sustainable consumption; since environmental harm is likely to occur, if they are released to the environment or even when they are disposed to landfills (Musa et al., 2013). Therefore, the customer is expected to contribute towards controlling of this issue (Tanner & Kast, 2003). Sustainable consumption includes sustainable packaging as well (Ampuero & Vila, 2006) where the consumption of polythene bags are associated with. Reduce, re-use and recycle are three areas which could contribute towards minimizing the impact to the environment, on an individual basis (Park & Han, 2014) and the usage of polythene bags could be considered, along this line of thinking.

Problem statement

1.2.1 Performance gap

Sri Lanka is a country with a limited landmass; therefore, the release of polluting products to the surrounding sea could create devastating effects for people, marine life and the economy. Athukorala et al., (2017) estimates that approximately 20 billion polythene bags are being used in Sri Lanka daily. For instance, Supermarkets issue eight million polythene bags within Colombo district. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka currently does not practice appropriate mechanisms to dispose these bags other than landfills. Resultantly, the dangerous effects of this policy were experienced in full force last year. The need to use material that are more re-usable has been identified (EEA. 2014).

Table 1: Red Bag usage vs polythene bag usage

Total red bag usage2500
Re-use increase per customer3%
Polythene Bag Usage in Kg274,657
Increase in per-customer usage16%

Source: John Keells Holdings PLC Annual Report (2016)

When environmental initiatives undertaken by several supermarket chains were studied, it was observed that they giving serious consideration to the reduction in usage of plastic bags (Cargills Ceylon, n.d.) and (Unilever Sri Lanka, n.d.). They have manufactured reusable and environmentally friendly bags. However, the results of these initiatives are yet to be evaluated.

1.3 Behavior of the Problem

1.3.1 Theoretical gap

Therefore, to resolve the environmental problem, the main approach which has been identified is the reduction, re-use and recycle approach (Park & Ha, 2014). The main challenge identified, is to convince the common consumers to comply with these needs. Conventional theories such as expectancy theory by Vroom (1964) indicate that individuals need to be motivated, to achieve a set of goals. Jackson (2005) suggests that sustainable consumption is the solution whilst environmentally friendly attitudes require to be developed (De Young, 1985). Meanwhile, Zhong and Huang (2016) highlight, that motivation includes certain rewards, to encourage given behavior in human beings.

In a global context, the behavior of human beings has been positive towards environmental protection in the recent past. However, this is due to substantial availability of information flow regarding the impact on the environment owing to adverse human activities. Ajzen (1991), based on his theory of planned behavior states that the attitudes adopted towards the behavior will guide the person to behave in a certain manner. Meanwhile, if the benefits of sustainable consumption, are understood by the public they will behave positively towards environmental ramifications (Kalafatis et al., 1999; Laroche et al., 2001). Samarasinghe and Samarasinghe (2013) on the other hand highlight; that Sri Lankan consumers are not motivated to embrace green consumption initiatives, contrary to findings regarding developed nations. Meanwhile, economic constraints deter the efforts undertaken, to promote and create awareness regarding sustainable consumption pattern development.

1.3.2 Empirical gap

In a global context, sustainable consumption has become an area of interest; since demand is increasing and global resources are limited by nature. Resultantly, recycling has become mandatory for the world to sustain growth at current levels (Corral, 2013; Narayanaswamy and Stone, 2007). Meanwhile, several studies have been undertaken in relation to recycling of products as well as packaging aspects (Park & Ha, 2014; Zhong & Huang, 2016) to understand how consumer influence contributes to sustainable consumption. Likewise, Sustainable food processing methods and consumption is another area which is receiving considerable interest (Zeng & Wei, 2007; Vermeir & Verbeke, 2008; Paul & Rana, 2012; Zhu et al., 2013). However, since developed countries and developing countries possess different economic and social dynamics, the studies conducted on developing countries are limited (Geng et al., 2016). Furthermore, the non-availability of publicized studies which provide in-depth insight regarding the consumption habits of the public in relation to polythene bags in Sri Lanka, pose yet another problem. Therefore, to mitigate the usage of polythene bags, the various usage habits have been identified and suitable solutions have been provided, to minimize the consumption.

1.4 Purpose of the Study

Sri Lanka encountered devastating consequences with the collapse of the Meethotamulla garbage dump, which impacted numerous households and caused several deaths. Currently, the predominant method of recycling polythene bags is to dispose it at landfills, which will continue to cause adverse repercussions in the future (Jayasinghe, 2017). Therefore, the study seeks to identify the nature of the habits and what steps could be undertaken to mitigate such problems in the future. Sri Lanka has adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of which the 12th goal is related to the reduction of wastage and improving of the environment of the country. The concepts related to the re-use, reduction and recycle are three of the key areas which will promote benefits in these aspects effectively. This leads to maximizing health standards of the nation whilst achieving positive and long-term benefits. Meanwhile, targets have been identified and a set of objectives to be achieved by 2020 (Department of Census and Statistics Sri Lanka, 2017). Hence this research study will focus on the following research questions;

  • To which extent are environmental benefits achieved by the re-use of recyclable bags which will subsequently increase the consumer intention to use them?
  • To which extent are economic benefits and rewards achieved by the re-use of the recyclable bags which will subsequently increase the consumer intention to use them?
  • To which extent are the ease of usage benefits achieved by the re-use of the recyclable bags which will subsequently increase the consumer intention to use them?
  • What steps should supermarkets implement to popularize the usage of recyclable bags with the customers?

1.5 Objectives of the Study

The research objectives contribute towards the development of the research framework; which should subsequently imply the key areas of information which require to be collated together along with the necessary analysis to be undertaken. Research objectives can be presented as follows;

  • To ascertain the environmental benefits which could be achieved, owing to the change in attitude towards re-use of recyclable bags
  • To identify the economic benefits which could be derived, owing to the change in attitude towards re-use of recyclable bags
  • To ascertain the ease of usage related benefits and develop a positive attitude towards re-use of recyclable bags
  • To suggest recommendations to improve the usage of recyclable bags with customers of supermarket chains

1.6 Significance of the Study

The study bears significance relevance in the areas of academic as well as practical aspects; Sri Lanka is considered a developing country. Therefore, the country should cultivate an appropriate attitude towards the development of the environment. It is also important to ensure that the solutions suggested to promote environmental development are practical by nature and the people will be able to benefit from these initiatives. Thus, policy makers will find the study of practical relevance as they will be able to learn from the findings and develop appropriate policies.

On the other hand, the study contributes towards the mitigation of the knowledge gap existing regarding environmental issues and determine how one of the major problems can be minimized. This will add to the body of knowledge whilst globally it will create awareness regarding Sri Lanka and the issues the country is currently facing. Thus, the study will enrich the academic aspects as well. Therefore, the practical as well as theoretical significance of the study remains high.

1.7 Scope of the Study

The study will need to collect empirical evidence from the users of polythene bags at supermarkets. They will indicate whether they possess the ability to re-use the recyclable bags currently available with them. They will also identity the benefits as well as the challenges they are likely to face due to the usage of these bags. Thus, the study will have to collect data from the users of the bags as well as record their experiences. The study will be focused on the links between motivating factors for usage and how they will impact the usage dynamics of the bags.

1.8 Limitations of the Study

The study will collect information from a set of respondents and the insights are primarily derived from these responses. The genuine nature of the responses may not be ascertained in a realistic manner. Further, the sample selected for the research purpose may fail to represent the population due to size limitations and selection method errors. Furthermore, the statistical analysis tools that are adopted by the study also have their own limitations which may prevent the achieving of intended insights regarding the areas of discussion.

1.9 Summary

The customers may need to reach an appropriate level of motivation which will spur them to re-use the bags. Understanding these motivating factors will enable the parties to take appropriate steps towards improving the usage of suitable products that will meet the expectations of the markets. The long-term benefits in this context are likely to be high thereof. Meanwhile, the insights of the study will be useful to academics as well as policy makers. This will eventually contribute towards minimizing environmental issues currently faced by the country.


2.1 Introduction

Consumers of various items may possess different requirements; the organizations will naturally need to consider fulfilling these customer requirements. This is the reason that they should consider improving the overall consumer experience. However, all the consumers and the organizations alike will have the responsibility of ensuring that they minimize the harmful effects to the environment they are currently operating in. Resultantly, the benefits of these activities could be maximized and beneficial results of these initiatives could be enjoyed by the consumer. Green consumption is defined as the voluntary engagement of the usage of practices which are environmentally friendly (Connolly & Prothero, 2008). The organizations that are interested in the development of green practices would monitor the green purchase intentions the customers possess in reaching targeted benefits in the future (Chen & Chang, 2012) and (Corral, 2013).

The manufactures of the products or the providers of services are likely to ensure that they mitigate the impact created on the environment if consumers are demanding the adherence to green practices. These could be based on individual value systems held by consumers as well as the knowledge available (Jones et al., 2009). The benefits that the green systems would provide the consumers include; the quality of the products etc., which are considered important. The result however would indicate that aspects such as emission of harmful chemicals, wastage and other environmental considerations are mitigated (Mukherji & Mukherji; 2012).

2.2 Consumer intention

A person requires to be motivated to initiate a course of action; likewise, with customers. Therefore, to convince customers to perform according to the needs of the organization, they will need to ensure that the customers substantially motivated. This will lead the customers to behave in a certain manner and the organization will be able to achieve the results consistent with the expectations they possess (Corbett, 2003). Resultantly, for customers to embrace green purchasing intentions, they require to identify a certain set of benefits which they will derive from such purchases. Likewise, if customers are aware of the benefits of green purchasing and if these areas of knowledge encourage the customers to purchase effectively due to these benefits, they will do such purchases (Netemeyer et al, 2005). The customers possess a set of experienced exposures, which leads to the development of certain expectations and resultantly enhance customer motivation to achieve a certain pattern of behavior (Stern, 2000). Thus, according to the theory of planned behavior, the customers will seek to achieve the benefits expected from green purchasing practices and they will engage in such activity with the intention of benefitting from these useful outcomes.

2.3 Ease of handling

Customers are motivated to shift from one set of activities to another provided that the latter would provide them of a way which will encourage them to perform and benefit from the outcomes. Renny and Siringoringoa (2013) have indicated that when they consider the ease of use associated with online purchasing systems, this remains one of the decisive factors which drive a person to select a suitable method of purchasing to acquire their products and services. Meanwhile, there could be various features added to the product or the service with the intention of increasing the ease of purchase of the product. Thus, the customers will be able to purchase the product. For instance, if an environmentally friendly product contains ease of use features, this will be one of the key aspects that would drive the purchase decision (Tanner and Kast, 2003). This highlights that when the product has ease of purchasing features, the consumers are likely to be motivated to purchase the product from the market and maximize the benefits they enjoy.

2.4 Economic benefits

The products consumed by individuals will offer several economic benefits. Thus, these economic benefits are a set of motivators which would lead the people to perform consistent with expectations (Vroom, 1964). However, delving deep into the expectancy theory could lead the focus of the study away from the original objectives. However, the theory indicates the fact that there are certain expectations envisaged and the products or services which match these expectations, will ensure the benefits expected by the consumers are delivered.

Motivation occurs when there is an arousal of a need which the consumer needs to satisfy. There are several economic needs affiliated with consumers. For instance, the product being low cost is one such aspect (Mcneal, 2007). On the other hand, the product could offer them a high level of benefits in comparison to the cost of the product or service. This is one of the main factors that contribute towards the formation of consumer attitudes, in relation to the products that are under consideration (De Young, 1985).

Economic benefits can be named as rewards in a certain way; rewards consist of tangible benefits in terms of prizes, discounts, rebates, loyalty points for which customers may be entitled for purchasing the products stipulated by the company. As a marketing tool, several organizations offer rewards to their customers, to build customer loyalty via planned reward schemes (Bolton et al., 2000).

2.5 Environmental benefits

Schwartz (1994) argues that purchase decisions of the customers are primarily impacted by the values that the customers hold. For instance, if the society has instilled environmental values amongst the public, it is likely that they will work with these values in mind and make the purchase decisions based on these values. Naturally, the values associated with the people drives the decision-making process, to ensure that the customers make appropriate decisions consistent with their specific needs (Burgess, 1992). If the customers believe that the environmental benefits that are provided by the new methods are likely to ensure that they will be able to enjoy a future set of benefits, this also indicates that they will be able to achieve positive results consistent with market needs. Aoyagi-Usui et al., (2003), highlighted that environmental values tend to vary across cultures as well as countries. Moreover, pro-environmental values will differ even among the respective households. Samarasinghe and Samarasinghe (2013) have indicated that in the Sri Lankan context, environmental values do not play a prominent role as a motivator to reach a decision related to purchasing of products and services.

2.6 Attitude

Attitudes are positive or negative evaluations of behavior (Honkanen and Young, 2015). According to Ajzen (1991), attitude is defined as an evaluation of a particular object. As further defined by Ajzen and Fishbein (1974), subjective values that a person is having towards a particular object and the belief regarding that object, determines that person’s attitudes towards the particular object under consideration. In other words, attitudes towards a phenomena are verified by characteristics and beliefs which exist regarding that particular situation. Accordingly, attitude towards a behavior is an individual’s feelings in terms of favorableness or otherwise. Therefore, possessing a positive attitude towards sustainable products is a starting point to move towards sustainable consumption. Empirical studies have focused on attitudes towards sustainability and sustainable consumption behavior (Tanner and Kast, 2003; Jones et al., 2009; Mukherji & Mukherji, 2012; Park and Ha 2014). Reheul et al. (2001), stated that approximately 30% of the consumers tend to have positive attitudes towards sustainable consumption.

2.7 Summary

The above discussion related to literature has indicated, to develop a solution for sustainable consumption related aspects, the solutions require to motivate the consumers in certain ways. Therefore, the literature discussion has identified that ease of usage, environmental benefits as well as economic benefits are three key areas that are likely to motivate the users to take appropriate action related to sustainable consumption. However, some studies have indicated that this relationship is not obvious in every situation.


3.1 Introduction

The above literature review has indicated the main areas which require to be taken into consideration when the conceptual framework is currently being developed. The development of the conceptual framework in an appropriate manner, will provide the basis for the development of the study. Thus, this is the section which will impact the core of the study development.

3.2 Definition of the concepts

3.2.1 Economic benefits

Environmental considerations could lead to economic benefits; Kollmus and Agyeman (2002) have identified areas such as efficiencies or the production process, reduction in wastage etc., as some of the key driving factors which define environmental friendliness which could lead to economic benefits affiliated with products or services. The economic benefits are likely to act as the main forces which drive the motivation of parties to use the products or services consistent with expectations (De Young, 1985). Meanwhile, Nyborg et al. (2006) also broadly agree with the view that it is economic benefits which would drive environmentally friendly products to be selected, since long term economic benefits require to be offered to customers to convert. Therefore, Zhong and Huang (2016) evaluates this observation, by using expectancy theory to indicate that economic benefits will encourage consumers to adopt sustainable consumption.

H1: Economic benefits for reuse have a positive impact on attitudes towards reuse

3.2.2 Environmental benefits

When the people are provided with a set of expectations in terms of value generation, they will be driven by these requirements (Jayawardhena, 2004). Meanwhile, Hormer and Kahle (1988) identifies that when a person believes in certain values, it is likely that he will work towards reaching the said targets and achieve the requisite benefits. Furthermore, Aoyagi-Usui et al., (2003) stresses that environmental benefits are not merely short-term benefit expectations. Rather, there is a set of expectations which span a longer-term period. In other words, if a person is expecting to achieve values consistent with the needs they possess, it is likely that they will be able to reach the targets in terms of the environmental performance levels. Meanwhile, possessing knowledge regarding sustainable consumption and relevant benefits could drive purchasing decisions, based on the environmental benefits one could achieve. (Vermeir and Verbeke, 2008).

H2: Environmental benefits have a positive impact on attitudes towards reuse

3.2.3. Ease of usage

Renny and Siringoringoa (2013) have identified that ease of usage is one of the key driving factors which can achieve beneficial results in terms of performance. The ease of usage of the products or the services will also motivate the users of products or services to change the products that they have been using and to commence using the said product consistent with the needs they possess. Therefore, if the environmental values affiliated with the products and services are capable of meeting these requirements, the overall benefits with these outcomes are likely to be high. Tanner and Kast (2003) indicate that with changes in consumption habits, the ease of use can be accommodated and resultantly, the users of the products or services will find this to be a motivating factor.

H3: Ease of usage have a positive impact on attitudes towards reuse

3.2.4 Attitudes and Intention

Attitudes would drive the behavior of people; Bamberg (2003) indicates that the environmental consideration is a general attitude which is likely to drive the behavior of a given party. Groot and Steg (2007), studied the consumer intention towards environmental behavior in terms of opting for park and ride facility. They stated that positive attitudes were related to a strong intention to use park and ride facilities as environmental behavior. The customers when they are convinced that they possess an eco-friendly attitude are likely to use environmentally friendly products and services (Aman et al., 2012; Han et al., 2009). Therefore, when customers possess an attitude, they also possess a manner in expressing this attitude; for instance, if they purchase green products, they are conversant regarding current issues and conform to global concerns regarding products and services (Chen & Tung, 2014). This leads to building of their self-image regarding products services and benefits affiliated with these products and services. The attitude according to several studies could be considered as one of the key factors that can promote green behaviors (Nameghi & Shadi, 2013). For instance, if the customer has developed an appropriate attitude level towards environmental issues, they are likely to perform consistent with expectations to achieve the required results (Taylor & Todd, 1995).

H4: Attitudes have a positive impact on consumer intention towards reuse of recyclable bags

3.3 Conceptual Framework

Figure 3.1: Conceptual framework

Source: Author

3.4 Operationalization

The above diagram establishes the conceptual model affiliated with the study. The operationalization of the findings requires to be conducted, to ensure that appropriate results will be achieved thereof. This is the section that will be linked to the variables with the field material developed. Thus, appropriate operationalization of the concepts is paramount for the findings of the study to be effective.

Table 3.1: Operationalization

IntentionLevel of interest5 Point Likert Scale
Purchase potential
Frequency of undertaking
Maximizing re-usability
Economic benefitsCost savings potential5 Point Likert Scale
Discount potential
Cost and benefits
Other benefits potential
Environmental benefitsAwareness5 Point Likert Scale
Efficiency changes
Pollution reduction potential
Responsibility self-image
Ease of useDurability5 Point Likert Scale
Ease of carrying
Image impact
AttitudeCommitment to environment5 Point Likert Scale
Responsibility for action
Educating the others
Level of active involvement

Source: Author


4.1 Introduction

The methodology section is important for the development of the study with considerable focus on accuracy levels. Resultantly, an appropriate methodology will ensure that the required results will be met in terms of data collection and analysis. An appropriate methodology will ensure the study will provide relevant results which will influence the parties in a positive manner.

4.2 Approach to data gathering

The study requires to identify the nature of the relationships between the variables; however, to prove the nature of the relationships, it is advisable to use quantitative approaches for the study. Resultantly, the quantitative approach adopted, will convey the nature of the relationships with minimum subjectivity affiliated with the interpretation. Meanwhile, data will be gathered via obtaining responses to a survey questionnaire. The questionnaires will be distributed to individuals in the sample given below. This method has been adopted by Zhong and Huang (2016), Park and Ha (2014), and Chen and Chang (2012), to identify consumer intentions.

4.3 Validity and reliability

To fine-tune the field material, a pilot test will be undertaken. This will improve the validity and the reliability of the questionnaire. The study uses five-point Likert scale and thus is expected to improve the validity of the questionnaire. Further, the questionnaire will remain brief, enabling the information to be provided promptly and accurately. This will increase the overall reliability levels of the questionnaire. The pilot study will enhance the reliability of the material as well.

4.4 Sample

The sample selected should represent the population in consideration; in this instance, population represents the total customer base who purchase from supermarkets. However, the primary challenge is associated with the non-awareness of details regarding the population, which subsequently does not enable random sampling to be improvised. Thus, the sample size does not justify the findings whilst the sample will be identified based on convenient sampling. Convenient sampling was used in prior studies of Asmuni et al., (2015); and Becerra and Korgaonkar (2011) as the sampling technique. Meanwhile, consumers who visit supermarkets for grocery shopping will be considered for sample selection. A sample size of 200 respondents will be selected for the study.


The following Gantt chart is provided to exhibit the plan of study

Proposal submission
Proposal presentation
Literature review
Data Collection
Data Analysis
Discussion of Findings
Final completion


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