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Smart Bins

IDEO San Francisco recently hosted a brainstorm for our Connecting Communities Challenge.

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Using our Brainstorm in a Box toolkit we focused on three "How Might We" questions to address this challenge:

  1. HMW  inspire and empower people to change their own neighborhoods for the better?
  2. HMW create spaces in our neighborhoods to encourage interaction and creation of something meaningful?
  3. HMW nudge social norms and behaviors around keeping the environment clean?

One of the ideas from Heather Emerson that came out of these questions was to use technology to improve recycling and waste management. If people had to use fobs or some identification system to throw away trash or recycling, we could track which they were doing and give extra points to recyclers while taking away points from those throwing trash away. The community could choose the direction those points took. Some may like the idea of using a pure monetary system like a bag tax or others might want to have points cashed in for rewards.

This idea came from our discussion over making the disposal process more visible and accountable.  We discussed how identification could help bring accountability to maintaining local environments.  Many apartments in Singapore have long chutes that residents throw trash into, turning it into an invisible problem.  We also discussed the potential of using leader boards to spur competition and several other variations on this idea.  We'd love to see some ideas build on this theme.

How does your concept inspire collaboration between individuals, private sector organisations, and the government in an effort to create cleaner neighbourhoods?

While this idea doesn't immediately create collaboration, creative pilots of rewards systems easily could. If rewards included meeting time with exclusive individuals or access to special tools or resources, the outcome from these actions could be a myriad of new collaborations between individuals, private sector organizations, non-profits, and local governments.

How might your concept be scaled in a way that creates even more connections between people?

The concept is very scalable as it applies to the individual trash and recycling collection unit.

How might you design a small experiment around your concept that would mobilise action?

A small experiment could be done simply by having people act as an identification technology at trash bins for a day to see what kind of behavior is encouraged and how those initial rewards are used.


Join the conversation:

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RFID has already become so advanced that the chips could be as small as a single dot as invited by Hitachi. The next phase would be to bring the cost of these RFID chips so low that it could be printed on all items.

Then, when recycling products, the systems will be able to sort all products via the RFID identification system. This would be the future of recycling due to it's enormous cost. Eventually this would be the standard going ahead.

Edmund Ng

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