Do to trashcans what Nest did for thermometers.
Create a wifi enabled (internet of things) trashcan that has a scale in it, which measures how much you are recycling. Just like with Nest, users can login to the cloud and see a 'recycling' scorecard. The website could show you comparisons of your block, neighborhoods & cities. In addition, it could provide summary data to show the recycler how much waste they are recycling each year, and how that translates into things they can relate to: You've saved 2 semi-trucks full of trash being added to a landfill! You could maintain a database of what types of recycling programs exist where each user lives, and send them targeted advice on increasing their recycling. This has to be zero friction for users (no scanning) or people won't use it!
Explain your idea in one sentence
Do to trashcans what Nest did for thermometers; network it to the cloud and incentivize users to recycle more.
An additional feature would be to allow users to have multiple trashcans that are each designated for a particular type of recycled product (glass, paper, etc). By being creating a central database of municipalities' recycling programs (just like Nest has a database of utilities' rule and regulations), you could help facilitate (read: automate) the load on the 'end user'.
The networked scaled trashcan.
Eventually you could work with cities to provide montary incentives: money towards trash cans, or cash back to the biggest recyclers (similar to how Nest works with utilities to provide incentives).
Describe how your idea would help form new habits and improve recycling at home
People are competitive, so initially they are just competing to recycle more than others; this should continue to build as you move from being a 'top recycler' in your city, to being one in your neighborhood, to being the top recycler on your block ... eventually this becomes habit forming ... and you don't even think about (but you still probably check) how you're doing. Additionally, ongoing incentive programs could be used to ensure ongoing participation.
How might you design an early, lightweight experiment to further develop your idea?
Take an existing trashcan that has can insert, put a wireless wifi scale (like the Fitbit Aria) under the shell. Use the Fitbit API to extract your weights; you'd have to have a simple algorithm that kicked in whenever you went back (or close to) zero ... it would add these weights. A simple website could tell you your weekly recycling amount.
What aspects of your idea could benefit from the input of our OpenIDEO community?
Is this something community members would be remotely interested in?