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UPDATE 3, on 20th June. Mr. Recycle - A service design model for recycling

The idea focuses on leveraging the existing retail supply chain and life cycle based information to make the recycling of packaging in a more efficient and engaging way. Currently, the consumers do not know how is their recycling impacting the environment and they do not get rewarded for their behavior and idea addresses these issues.

Photo of Shimolee Nahar
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Explain your idea in one sentence

Mr. Recycle is a service model that works on rewarding consumers for their good behaviors, and uses retailers and the suppliers as a facilitator. It benefits the retailer through the sale of uncontaminated packaging materials and improving brand loyalty. It extends the idea of product stewardship to daily use, low value product.
Update 3: Sketching concepts for label and testing them out with users.
As mentioned in update 2, communication and convenience would be the key drivers for recycling. We explored the idea of consumer education at the point of sale -  on the product packaging. We created many label options - more action oriented than mere "please recycle" and quantifying the impact and thereby giving power to the users. While doing so, we came across energy trump cards, which closely align with our idea of communication the embodied energy of the product packaging, that can go back into the system. Energy trump cards are targetted at designers to make informed decisions. A similar product is "The making" app by nike. Both these tackle the problem of better material choices at design phase - while our concepts gives this scientific information (in a more palatable format) to the consumer at the point of decision making.

Energy Trump Cards: Agency of Design, UK

Concept Explorations:
Created options for on packaging label, that can be included along with the recycling symbol.Some of the ideas were relating the energy to the daily used terms like calories. Normalizing the scientific information - dollars, gallons of gasoline etc .

We refined the the concept, and collected feedback for few interesting concepts.

Feedback collected:

We gave the cans with the new information to the users and noted their reactions
  1. Curious about the number : Some of the users wanted to know more about the number on the label. They understood that the label communciated some information about the energy.
  2. Actionable information: They like the fact that they knew how much energy/impact they would be making they chose to recycle the can.
  3. Need to provide more information in different format: Since they were concerned about the credibility of the information, it would be a good idea to layer the information and provide detailed information on the "story of material" on website. There is a stronger need for the information system and calculation to be transparent - currently people do not know what information to trust with the proliferation of ecolabels and their presence on the packaging.
  4. Some suggested that it should be combined with existing recycling label which is not at all informative.
  5. Knowing the information once is sufficient - which allows users to know that the packaging material has embodied energy - some of it can be put back into the system. Therefore, it could be a norm or a campaign. Preferably it should be norm on product packaging.
  6. Many people said that they would recycle more if this kind of information is available on the packaging. Others said - it is definitely thought provoking.

Update 2: Customer journey mapping + insights from store manager

Images have also been uploaded. Feedback welcome.


Update 1: User study Findings

We did a quick user data gathering to understand what would be the drivers and blocks for having a recycling system like Mr. Recycle at grocery store, and what kind of incentives would be good motivator.  The findings are listed below:

Storage: People usually go for grocery shopping once a week and it would be difficult to store the recyclables for a week (in case of apartment residents), because the bottles and containers are bulky and and will occupy too much space at homes. Storing recyclables for few days seemed fine.

Ease of transportation: For people living in apartment buildings and using public transportation/walking for the grocery shopping, carrying the recyclables to the store would be tedious. Therefore recycling in store will depend on the mode of transportation.

Convenience vs. incentives: If it is convenient for people to recycle, they would be motivated by the incentives, otherwise the (small) amount of money that they will get in return is NOT a motivator.

1) Doing good: If people feel connected to the "good" that is coming out from the recycling - for e.g., if the points are being donated to a charity, and they can see the impact of their actions, they may consider recycling. But again, it has to be convenient.

2) Community collection: If everyone in the neighborhood recycles, they would be willing to recycle and drop off recyclables.  Some people felt that organizations could collect recyclables from the community, every week and donate the collective earnings to a charity.

3) Convenience:  If the location of the drop off points is near their home, they are willing to recycle and earn cash back.

- Monetary incentives and reverse vending at grocery stores/public spaces could add to cleanliness in the city as homeless people would be motivated to find material to recycle.

- Similar systems of recycling at retail stores already exist in different parts of the world. For e.g., reverse vending is popular in Canada, and people recycle diligently. They get the bottles to the stores in order to recycle and get cash back. However, reverse vending system is not very common in the US. The reason could be lack of awareness and the connection between the green actions and its effect.


NEW IDEAS from the discussion with the users and the team:

1) Having a trash liner which can be taken to the store and deposited directly. Can we have it designed so that it looks trendier? Can it be easily loaded into the car?The liner can be compostable. Can it be something that can be exchanged? Like a bag exchange?

2) Incentives should be more “valuable” than the amount of money.
Incentives could be:
- Store privileges and discounts: For. e.g., something like a frequent flyer miles and business class traveller.
- Ability to donate the recycling points to a charity
- Ability to measure the “Handprint” (how much difference have you made)
(Handprint is a concept by Dr. Gregory Norris)

REDEFINING the NEED: We realized that reverse vending system can work, as it works in Canada, if the consumers are aware. There is a stronger need for the environmental communication, throughout the purchase cycle, which can affect consumer decision to do the right thing.

NEXT updates:
- Feedback from grocery store personnel
- Consumer purchase cycles and identifying key touch points for environmental communication
- Creation of different representation of "energy points" labels to get more feedback on the concept

-----  ------ -------------------------------------------------------

John buys a can of Coca-cola in Walmart. He sees an "energy point" label on the can. He knows (from the campaigns what do they stand for). Energy points is the amount of energy a consumer can save if s/he chooses to recycle - it is derived using life cycle assessment of packaging material.

At the checkout, John is reminded again of the energy he can save by choosing to recycle on his entire purchase.

In his next visit to the grocery store, he gets the Coca-cola can and other packaging materials to recycle. On scanning the product, the specific section of the bin opens up - this educates the user on segregation of waste

John collects the points which can be redeemed as store credit.

As the person levels up, the app allows for bulk deposit into the kiosk "Mr. Recycle". This is the consumer facing side of the system. Now let us understand the system back end.
How does customer benefit: rewards and feedback
How does retail benefit: Goodwill and revenue
How does supplier (Coca Cola benefit) : Goodwill and advertising

Inspiration: solar belly compactor, reverse vending machine.
I have uploaded the entire presentation on behance. You can view it here.
Offline Collaborators: Mudit Mittal, Karun Jacob

Describe how your idea would help form new habits and improve recycling at home

Incentivizing customers and providing a convenient location for recycling can help change the behavior and how we buy and dispose things.

How might you design an early, lightweight experiment to further develop your idea?

We did an initial test using the can with energy point label. The consumer reaction was curiosity. Many consumers said that having this information and system in place would be effective. The other experiment we plan to do is to try it in a school cafeteria and see the effect of the system.

What aspects of your idea could benefit from the input of our OpenIDEO community?

Refining the system and making it more robust. Current challenges in the system include: contamination, effective use of reverse supply chains.
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Team (7)

Shimolee's profile
Elisa's profile
Guy's profile
Guy Viner

Role added on team:

"Really appreciate your comments. Would love to talk more and refine the idea further. Would you have some time today/tomorrow to discuss it? My email is Thanks again."

Goders's profile
Rose's profile
Rose O'Neill

Role added on team:

"Hi Rose, Thanks! I was wondering if you could share some insights on user behavior and how we could ensure that people could get the recyclables to the store/collection points? Look forward to hearing from you. I have added you to the team. Thanks."

Paul's profile
Paul Reader

Role added on team:

"Thanks for awesome feedback."

Hermione's profile
Hermione Taylor

Role added on team:

"Thanks for sharing."


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mudit Mittal

I think this is a great idea! I think modifying the current recycle logo by adding quantified product LCA information makes a very compelling argument to those who forget to recycle often. Knowledge is power, this way I know what is the effect of my choice of recycling. If such a system comes into existence, I think a lot more people will take extra efforts to recycle.

The idea of MegaJoules as a unit is very interesting as well. Like people notice Calories for the food they intake, they may start talking of the MegaJoules they saved from trashing this week.

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