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UPDATED 20 June: How do I recycle this? An app to arm people with recycling know- how (and a why and a where)

The app arms users with knowledge about how they can recycle household items.

Photo of Jes Simson
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Explain your idea in one sentence

An app arming users with knowledge about how they can recycle household items ... and then giving them a reason why they should recycle.

UPDATE SUMMARIES:

Update 20 June
:

  • new sketches showing how the app will function (see images above and attached PDF).
  • how to collect information required for app to function (including via outreach to companies, community organisaitons, councils and invidual recycling warriors).
  • increasing rewards - incentivising users to recycle
  • keeping users up to date with changes


Update 21 May:

 

  • finding easy ways for the user to input packaging materials
  • showing where you can recycle
  • making the app more engaging


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UPDATE-  20 JUNE


Collecting up to date recycling information


One of the largest barriers to implimentation is the need to access accurate local recycling information.  I think we can overcome these challenges in a number of ways:

  • Reaching out to local councils / recycling centers so that they provide the appropriate local recycling knowledge.  Recycling centers and councils spend an enormous amount of energy and resources sending waste to landfill sites and sorting out incorrectly disposed recyclable materials.  Reach out to councils and recycling process plants to provide local recycling information.   We would also need an automatic review system / trigger to ensure that councils / recycling centers notify us when recycling procedures change in a local area. 
  • Reaching out to local organisations and companies who accept recyclable materials and asking them to upload their recycling information.  In Australia, a number of local organisations (like opportunity / charity / thrift stores) accept a range of used goods.  A number of retailers will also recycle e-waste on your behalf (for instance, Harvey Norman accepts old tv's and Officeworks accepts old computers).
  • Reaching out to individual recycling warriors - superstar recyclers who are in our community - to (1) update recycling information; (2) updating materials that the app doesn't cover; (3) updating the app with creative ways the materials could be recycled (eg: links to Pintrest upcylce pages as per Suzie's great suggestion below).  These individual recycling warriors could be incentivised through a similar ratings / star system as Amazon / Yelp reviewers. 
  • Community organisaitons, companies and the council will be able to update information via a web portal

Most of these inputs require the app to have a critical mass to provide the incentives to volunteer information.  Until then, we will need to source this informaiton and update manually. 



Path towards gaining critical mass

  • Start locally - pick one area that has a large enough population to support the app (Paul Bearman has done this masterfully with http://www.recycleopedia.info/, Timmy has also shown via https://openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/ideas/the-e-waste-race-a-race-between-schools-to-collect-as-much-e-waste-as-possible that this could work really well in the Netherlands.)  Build local support for the app then if it starts to gain traction, you can slowly step it out across a wider geographic area.  


Incentivising people to recycle

  • With information ... So far I've focused on arming people with a bit of knoweldge about what a piece of recycled material can become and the impact that recycling has (eg: a piece of plastic can become a sleeping bag / recycling this bottle will save this amount of energy).  This is pretty similar to Kennith Watson's great idea over here: https://openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/refinement/from-this-to-this-an-app-that-reveals-possibilities and Goder's fantastic idea over here: https://openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/refinement/recyculator-because-recycling-is-a-numbers-game).  
  • with a bit of fun and humour: The app can also use push notifications to humorously encourage you to engage with recycling a bit more - eg: if it notices that you haven't used the app for a while, it could send you fun facts about products that you probably didn't know could be recycled.  Shane Zhao had a great interactive idea on how to increase engagement over here: https://openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/ideas/recycleminder-a-refreshing-way-to-think-about-recycling.  
  • with free stuff from the people whose products you are recycling ... Given that we will be able to tell whose items are being recycled where data is input via the barcode (we're going to know that it's a 1.25 LT Coke can) - the app could also send out promotions to the person who has the app.  Eg: Coke could start a promotion that for every 10 coke bottles recycled, coke will give you a voucher for one free coke.  Coke could also provide incentives to get friends using the app - eg: the more friends you sign up and who actually use the app, the more free stuff you get.  "Free stuff" could also inlcude rewards that consumers cannot ordinarily buy, like VIP festival tickets or even coke cans with your name on it (http://www.ogilvy.com.au/the-work/share-a-coke).


Push notifications


The app will send the user push notificiations indicating when local recycling laws change in their area so that the user can adjust their behaviour.


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UPDATE; 21 MAY

I have updated a couple of features of the app:

A. Finding easy ways for the user to input packaging materials  


I've come up with three possible solutions to enable users to easily tell the app what packaging material they are trying to recycle. 

  • (1) a barcode links up to supplier data to extract packaging material information;
    • PROS: relatively easy to use - fewer steps for the user - universality if we can link barcodes with packaging material
    • CONS: barcodes are too narrow for a smart phone to read / packaging without a barcode - difficulty linking barcode with packaging data, how do we get suppliers on board?  Shoudl this come from a national supermarket who has the power to insist on this?
  • (2) the user inputs the data by chosing a product family (glass, plastics, paper, fabric etc), the app then prompts the user to narrow down their choice (eg: type 4 plastic, waxed cardboard etc) -this is similar to a program in France
    • PROS: Relatively easy for the user to input data (so long as the information is structured in a user friendly way)
  • (3) the user types in the product name (eg: 375  mm coke can) and the app links this with packaging material or the user inputs the packaging type (eg: aluminium can).
    • PROS:  could be really accurate (like the barcode) 
    • CONS: Requires good autofill results - including mispellings etc; requires a lot of data; requires a lot of user effort.

While a QR code would work technologically, getting that much lable space across every singe recyclable products isn't particularly feasible. 

 

B. Showing you where you can recycle 


Showing people where they can recycle certain items.  So ... I quickly realised that some people don't have recycling bins.  There are also a host of things that generally can't be recycled with domestic pick ups (appliances, batteries, clothing etc) - so I've included a feature that tells people where their closest Recycling point for that particular material is. 

 

C. Super engaging

I'm also really aware that this app really needs to engage people through its visuals and tone of voice if it is going to change the hearts and minds of people.  I've included lines like " Thanks for recyling that paper label.  When it grows up, it wants to become a comfy chair.  It doesn't fancy becoming a loo roll."


You could also have an option to chose your tone of voice - similar to Google's Art, Copy and Code " Talking Shoe"


I really like Shane Zhao's use of recycled movie quotes in push notifications to remind people to recycle over at his  Recycleminder idea (" Life is like a recycling, you never know what you're going to get."Recycled from Forrest Gump)


Any help with forging an engageing tone of voice and visuals would be greatly appreciated. 







 

ORIGINAL IDEA

The Problem


Recycling can be really confusing.  It shouldn't be.  This complexity makes behavioural change really difficult.  


It is often unclear how you should recycle composite and mixed materials.    People get confused about how to recycle different types of plastic.  Different suburbs often have completely different recycling rules.  This leads to frustration and poor recycling habits. 


IDEA: An app to help people work out how to recycle packaging in their local area


This app aims to give people a clear answer on how to recycle different packaging goods in their local area.  


In a few easy steps, users will be armed with recycling knowledge: 


STEPS:

(1) Scan the product's barcode

(2) Confirm your postcode

(3) The app will tell you how to recycle the product's different packaging materials in your local area.


Arming people with knowledge 


The app aims to arm people with the knowledge they need to recycle well.  You go to it when you are confused or confronted with a new product (eg: you're confused about how to recycle the various components of a readymeal).  


Although this information is generally available on council or waste management websites, it is usually burried in a labryinth of dead links and confusing language.  This app aims to make this relevant information clear and easily accessible.  


When your council changes their recycling rules, the app can send you  push notifications to alert you.  Equally, when you move areas, the app could send you notifications about the key differences in recycling rules. 


Easy to use and a little bit joyful


To ensure usefullness, the app needs to be really easy to use and minimise the steps (and time) needed to find information.  


Given that recycling is pretty mundane and unpersonable, the app needs to engage people.  Microinteractions / interface etc. could be a bit joyful / quirky / personable to engage users. 


Partnerhsips required 


This app would rely on linking information about a product's packaging materials with its barcode (alternatively, companies could use a QR code).  


The app would also rely on getting area specific recycling rules from councils.  I'm not sure whether this can easily be mined from council websites or whether councils would have to submit information.  


Any thoughts?


If you have any thoughts about how to improve this idea, please comment below.  I'd really appreciate the input.  

 

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

The app aims to give users location specific knowledge about how they can recycle at home. Armed with this knowledge, recycling should be easier, which will hopefully lead to behavioural change.

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

UPDATE: Check out the very basic prototype at: https://popapp.in/projects/535d8e8d9738be984f454172/preview I've engage using tone of voice - let me know whether you think this will engage or annoy people. The graphics were done using powerpoint - so they are pretty basic. Any pointers on how to improve the graphics to amp up engagement would be greatly appreciated. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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

I'd really appreciate some input from someone in the FMCG sector on whether it's feasible to easily link up barcodes or QR codes with that products composite packaging materials. Equally, if anyone knows how you could easily access information about how these materials can be locally recycled. Should you go to the council / to the waste management company?

Evaluation results

12 evaluations so far

1. How well do you think this idea will create new habits for the people involved?

Really well. I can see it creating lasting behavioural changes - 58.3%

The idea is pretty good but I’m not sure it will make new habits - 41.7%

Not sure the idea would really help people establish long-lasting habits - 0%

2. Can the idea be scaled to work in different countries and with different people?

Yes – it’s clear how the idea could be adopted by people from far and wide - 33.3%

Seems like it could work but needs some fleshing out - 58.3%

I don’t think it could be easily used in different locations - 8.3%

3. Can the idea be used regardless of the local recycling schemes?

Yes – it doesn’t seem to rely on a particular collection scheme - 58.3%

Possibly – although it might work better under some schemes rather than others - 41.7%

I think it might only work under particular circumstances - 0%

4. How easy would it be to pilot a version of the idea to test it out?

Really easy – ways to test this idea further are already springing to mind - 41.7%

Piloting this idea would be possible but it could take a lot of time and resources - 58.3%

A pilot doesn’t seem easy at this point - 0%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world - 58.3%

I liked it but preferred others - 33.3%

It didn’t get me too excited - 8.3%

97 comments

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Comment
Photo of Julie Byrnes
Team

Hi Jess, we came across your app in doing some browsing for our first Lego league robotics project research. Part of our competition is to come up with an innovative solution and when we were looking to see if ours idea already existed we came across your site. Our idea it has similarities but also many many differences. I was wondering if you would be able to correspond with us by email or teleconference because part of our research requires that we reach out to express or other people with similar ideas. Would you be willing to talk with us? Our team consists of Nine kids fourth through sixth grade. Any help you could give us would be appreciated. Thank you.

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hi Julie, absolutely, happy to help. I live in Australia, so email is probably easiest with time differences (jes.simson@gmail.com). This is also only an idea, it hasn't been shipped. Good luck with the robotics project!

Photo of Jon Vaughan
Team

Hi, I run a freecycling organisation, http://www.freelywheely.com, and when people are unable to find a new home for something it would be great if we could offer them information about how to recycle it. If you could offer your service as an API that could be queried by location, material type, barcode, item category etc then we (and lots of other people) would be able to integrate it to provide automatic information about what could happen next. Send me a msg if you would be interested in setting up a prototype integration.

Jon

Photo of Julie Byrnes
Team

Hi Jon. I have AN elementary robotics team that is participating in the FLL trash truck challenge this year. We have a project to work on for our competition that involves trash and recycling but were also very interested in free cycling. I'm going to contact The designer of this app as well but would love to reach out to an expert so that my kids have more information in order to prepare. Would you provide me with an email or contact information for us to have specific questions?

Photo of William Burrows
Team

Hi Jes. After thinking along the same lines as you I thought I should Google the idea and it brings me to your concept. We'll done for getting this idea going. I am interested in finding out more and assiting you in connecting with potential partners that may be interested in the application. Here in British Columbia we have extended producer responsibility programs for many products and this would be a very useful tool. If you would like to chat my contact info is available on our website; www.cwma.bc.ca
Will Burrows

Photo of Thi Mui Nguyen
Team

Hi Jes,
This idea is great. Even though I try to recycle as much as I can, it happens sometimes to me that I just throw my trashes in the same bin because I don't know how to recycle it. This I due to lack of information I think. How is it going for you? Have you found some partners yet?

Photo of Tiffany Tran
Team

I was just browsing through this challenge and came across your idea, and I absolutely love it! I have done extensive research in the recycling industry (specifically plastic), and it's really fascinating to see how little people know about what can be recycled! This is a great tool for any environmentally conscious smart phone user to have!

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thanks Tiffany. Yes, there is a significant lack of knowledge about what can and can't be recycled. This is almost always compounded by confusion caused by the different recycling rules and regulations in different places.

Photo of Aaryaman Singhal
Team

This is a great idea. As a sustainability-minded person, I'd love to have this app (or even be an individual recycling warrior). How can I follow up on this to help it become used more widely?
This same question goes for all of the other winning ideas as well if anyone knows the answer.

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thanks Aaryaman. At the moment I am still trying to find some partners to make this app a reality (so local councils and waste management companies with recycling info and companies or supermarkets with barcode info). A finished app will probably be some time off.

Photo of Aaryaman Singhal
Team

Jes,
Good luck!

Maybe a blog (posted on a local govt. website or of a well-known local business) or FB page could be a place to post where to recycle items (like shoes, batteries, and other less commonly recycled items) in the meantime.

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thanks Aaryaman, that's a great idea to get the ball rolling.

Photo of tracy bugh
Team

Hi Jes,
Congratulations on your win, and for fighting the good fight! I'm attacking the same issue but from another angle. I've got tons of data on US local recycling programs I'd be happy to share with you. Let me know how I can help!

Aaryaman,
I see you're from Austin! Austin is on our site. We cover everything from batteries to bubble -wrap to chopsticks. http://recyclebycity.com Please let me know if you find what you're looking for - or what you think we could improve. I'd love to hear from you both. Cheers!

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hey Tracy, sorry for the delayed reply. Recyclebycity.com look amazing. I love the quizzes and how user friendly all of the graphics are. I also love the alert notification for when your city changes recycling requirements. At the moment, I am still trying to work out how to bring this to life in App form, but I will take you up on your offer when / if I get to that stage.

How did you go about getting all of your recycling data?

Photo of tracy bugh
Team

Hi Jes,

No worries on the delay - it was only by happenstance that I saw your reply.

We gathered the data through city websites, calling city recycling hotlines, and asking the recycling MRFs (material recovery facilities) personally when we couldn't get answers. It took a lot of elbow grease, which is why I'd be happy to share the info.

Do reach out if I can be of help. Shine on!

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hey Tracey, thanks for your reply.

Most cities I have checked out require that same level of elbow grease, it really is frustrating! Thank you so much for your offer and keep up your awesome work!

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Another winning idea, Jes – huge congratulations! Your idea is so simple and addresses a clear need – letting users find out if something is recyclable. This could be especially useful on the go or when travelling. Building off databases like http://www.recyclenow.com/ we can really see this taking off. Further down the line, we can also see it incorporating features from some other ideas in the Refinement shortlist, like ‘From This to This’ which shows the possibilities of what a product could become, and ‘Recyculator’s feature of showing the direct environmental impact. Exciting stuff, well done! Make sure you share any impact updates with the community once the Impact phase goes live – we’d love to hear them.

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Wow, thanks OpenIDEO. It has been so much fun.

‘From This to This’ and ‘Recyculator' are both incredibly inspiring ideas and I definitely think they could really make this idea better down the track.

I don't have any engineering skills. Do you have any tips for implementation and getting app ideas out into the real world?

Photo of Paul Reader
Team

Congratulations on two great concepts Jes.
I will watch developments with interest.

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thanks Paul for all of your awesome collaboration Paul.

Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Love the live prototype on popapp Jes! In addition to rewarding users for their recycling activity, I particularly love how you've built in an education component to correct bad recycling habits in a fun way. A feedback loop is essential to how people can adopt better practices for waste reduction. Learning from mistakes with positive feedback-that's the best way that I've learned many skills! I also enjoy the musing characters that you've created for each recycled item. i.e. "When it grows up it wants to be a new book. It doesn't doesn't fancy becoming a loo roll." The almost storyboard nature of this idea can become a catchy teaching tool for kids. Great job!

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thanks Shane for the kind words and awesome inspiration.

Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Congrats Jes! I love the wonderful story telling that you made throughout every step of this idea. Looking forward to your next steps!

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thanks Shane! Your storytelling over at Bottles For Smiles was really inspiring.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Jes. Great idea. I love the prototype/visuals. For some reason it reminds me of PacMan!

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hey Bettina. Thanks for the feedback. It is very PacMan, something about the yellow and black together.

The visuals are largely dictated by what I can mock up in powerpoint.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

I really like it. It feels retro and different. Perhaps it is the contrast of the right now technology and the older looking game? Whatever it is I like the simplicity of the way you have it set up. It is refreshing! It is also clear and easy to use which for me would mean I would walk around with it and use it a lot!

I agree with Shane and Darren's remarks as well. Great use of color, messaging, feedback. I love the smile face, sad face - hard not to get the point!

Good luck developing it further!

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thanks Bettina, that was the vibe I was going for.

Thanks for all of your help during this challenge - you are a true OpenIDEO tour de force and inspiration!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Hi. As I moved around this challenge I noticed all sorts of ideas and resources in your posts. I learned much from them!
And now - a big congratulations on your winning ideas! Great job. Personally I will be excited to use and to share your app! Looking forward to it's launch!

Thanks for the positive feedback Jes. Since joining this community last fall I have been inspired by the generosity of spirit and team effort here! Lots to learn and it has been so much fun!

Photo of Darren Yeo
Team

Great thinking of the app! It has a strong use of emotional icons and colour association. Especially in this day and age of smartphone, this would be a great learning platform for kids!

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thanks Darren for the feedback! Yes, I think it could great tool to help teach kids recycling habits. You could set up kid specific profiles and then create kid specific incentive and motivational systems (like gold stars, or free educational iPad games etc.)

Photo of Timmy de Vos
Team

Hey Jes, Paul Reader gave me the tip to help you out on your point B. 'Showing Where you can Recycle'

I am already showing where you can recycle E-waste. I am filling a map on my website, www.ewasterace.nl, with all kinds of recycling and repair locations for e-waste in the Netherlands.

It's still in an early phase and the map needs to be filled much more. However the map I am developing could be used as a plug in for you to show (e-waste) recycling/repair shops (in the Netherlands.. And who knows hopefully more international in the future!)

Photo of Paul Bearman
Team

Hi Timmy, really like the crossover into community helping out and benefiting, whilst recycling people's unwanted stuff! I was discussing with a group the other day was about building this idea into a tool like www.recycleopedia.com

Photo of Timmy de Vos
Team

Yeah, I saw the button to upload recycling locations, cool man! Recycleopedia is really starting to look nice!

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hey Timmy and Paul, thanks for your great insights and help!

Timmy, http://www.ewasterace.nl is looking great and I love the gamification element of your e-waste race idea!

So - Timmy and Paul, I'm trying to gauge the level of motivation for users to input data about recycling points for the app.

Timmy, are you inputting the recycling locations on http://www.ewasterace.nl or are your users? How willing are people to input information about recycling points or about their recycling materials? I see that you have found that older people are less willing or able to input their own data so you are designing a system for school children to input this data themselves. Is this working?

Paul, http://www.recycleopedia.com has a button for users to input their own data about local recycling centres. I appreciate that it is only early days, but have you found that people are willing to input this data?

Photo of Timmy de Vos
Team

Hey Jes, I am mainly focused on inserting data of shops that have multiple recycling stations so to say. I contact them to cooperate and they are usually willing to do so. Then I do the data input myself.

So I don't really have experience with people placing their own local recycling stations. This will only work when, like wikipedia there are enough users to control for the content. So far I don't have enough users to add this function yet. And it would be too time consuming in this stage to control the content myself. Nevertheless I really much like the idea and find it very good that recyclopedia does have it!

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hey Timmy, any recycling platform is going to rely on critical mass in order to have enough users to input this data. Well done on getting the process started! What kinds of shops in the Netherlands offer this service? The shops offering a recycling service in Australia are really varied. Are you finding it difficult to locate them?

Photo of Timmy de Vos
Team

It's a real gradual process. So repair cafés are becoming really famous and are thus easy to find. Then you have a lot of snowballing through all the people I talk to. This way I get to find more recyclers. But there are plenty of others yet to find or that will hopefully know how to find the ewasterace some time.

I would also like to find a proper way to insert web based recyclers. More and more online companies are getting into the business of giving phones a second life. Nevertheless they are not necessarily location based but rather want you to send your old phones by mail. So I got to find a way to cover this too.

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hey Timmy - its great that repair cafe's are becoming so popular. When I lived in Edinburgh, Scotaland, I spent many weekends in a bicycle repair place where you paid by the hour for a stand to fix your bike. It was a great place to gain new skills and meet new people (and repair my bike).

Do the internet recycle places offer any incentive to pay for the postage to send in your recyclable item? Do you have any examples? It would be great to see what their recycling rate it.

As for incentives to get them to upload information to your site, if they make money by upcycyling products could http://www.ewasterace.nl become a site where they reach out to potential customers and recyclers? I know this relies on critical mass but it could provide these companies with an incentive to reach out to you.

Photo of Timmy de Vos
Team

Hey hey, in Holland (small country) the price for logistics/mail is often covered by those online companies that make money by giving the phones a second life. A pretty cool one is techreturns: http://www.techreturns.nl

And yeah the ewasterace.nl website could indeed be a portal to more potential suppliers of e-waste so that should be an incentive. And for most parties I talk to they do see the added value. But like you say it's about the critical mass. So far I'm just a little to small to be found yet. Thanks for your comments!

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thanks Timmy. Cool, that makes sense that the online companies who give products a second life can provide free postage. http://www.techreturns.nl does look pretty cool.

Great work getting http://ewasterace.nl by inputting data yourself. I'm sure that once you achieve critical mass you will be able to crowdsource a lot of this input. Here's a really interesting talk by one of the co-founders of Yelp. He talks about how they initially built a community of users who rated places by starting locally - http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=3301. Leah Busque (Task Rabbit) also talks about building online communities over here: http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=3347 . I hope this helps.

Photo of Timmy de Vos
Team

Definitely the way to go! Hope all will work out as nicely as in those examples! One thing at a time tough ;)

Photo of Paul Bearman
Team

This is one of my ultimate goals with recycleopedia, we already have the local recycling data and are constantly increasing product data (including parts of products) an app is next on the agenda for our current search tool, but finding it impossible to find a barcode database for the next step - don't think there is such a thing. If anyone knows of one please let me know - I would love to build this and I'am in a good position too!

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Your website was definitely a catalyst for this idea - such an inspiring site. Keep up all your great work!

Has it been difficult to gain access to local recycling data?

Linking barcode data is definitely going to be a hard slog - I think we might need to approach companies, get one on board and see what is feasible.

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

We're so excited at the thought of Jes + Paul collaborating on an idea like this. Creativity loves company!

Photo of Paul Bearman
Team

Thanks Jes :-)

The hardest part is keeping all the info up to date, you wouldn't believe how often things change!

There is an example Recycleopedia web app online here... http://www.recycleopedia.info/SORTED-Web-App/index
- a version of this is about to go live with a couple of UK local authorities very soon.

A mobile app could easily be based around this to start with, adding barcode and other data when available, I am currently approaching companies to get their official product/packaging data listed and incentive schemes such as ones from Green Redeem could also be worked in somehow.

One obstacle is finding a way to monitise a mobile app, ideally I'd love to be able to provide it for free but apart from setup costs it's a massive amount of data to keep updated and supply! One day Recycleopedia.com will hopefully make enough to cover a free mobile app.

Photo of Paul Bearman
Team

Maybe instead of barcodes, phones could recognise the actual product? - so just take a picture and the info is displayed - There are some apps that see landmarks and then give you tourist info on it already. The easier the better!

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hey Paul - your web app is great. I really like the name and the simplicity. I also like how you split out the constituent parts so you know where to recycle them (personally, this is an area I really struggle with!) Seriously, congratulations!!! Once you had the data, was it difficult to code?

I haven't heard of green redeem - thanks for putting me onto them, it's a great idea.

The monetisation element is really tricky. Having a free app is obviously ideal as you want to limit the barriers to participation. If you charge for the app, you will probably only have consumers who are already engaged with and devoted to the recycling cause. I also think that payment for apps is problematic - it creates friction for downloads (as it adds a payment step) and most people expect to get terrific apps for free these days.

Perhaps we need to think about ways we could raise money for the service in a way that doesn't impact the end-user? It could be a case of reaching out to companies to sponsor the app (they get branding, sustainability and corporate social responsibility kudos for aligning themselves with the app). I don't know if this would muddy the app's independence. However, my gut says that so long as the app is super useful, relevant and a little bit entertaining, aligning with a company won't hurt its success. Perhaps waste management facilities see an economic benefit in users recycling better (if, for instance, machines are damaged by failing to sort recycling correctly)? If so, they may be willing to subsidise production. I don't really see council's chipping in for the service - if UK councils are anything like Australia's, they are always short of funds (this may also geographically limit the reach of the app, which may hinder long term success).

Finally, I really like your idea to see if you could develop technology to enable phones to recognise actual product. I'll look into those landmark photo recognition apps.

Thanks for your help and feedback. Keep up the great work with recyleopedia.com .

Photo of Timmy de Vos
Team

Wow, recycleopedia.info already looks really nice, great app. Indeed that it also gives advice on different parts of products to be recycled separately is awesome. Good work!!

I can imagine the data-mining to be an aweful lot of work, but keep up the good work!

I was thinking about monetizing it by allowing the recycleopedia search tool to be integrated into other companies websites or apps and thus selling it as an plug-in??

Photo of Paul Bearman
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Thanks for you kind words! I have plans for a 'business/property' version, so it'll only show data related to the company in a certain building - available to employees via their intranet etc. I think getting people to recycle at work is much harder than at home, at home it's the quality that is dropping, wrong items in the wrong bins causing contamination of the recycling collections.

Photo of Paul Bearman
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Google Goggles is the app that recognises landmarks and barcodes - if in their database, will look into more. Perfect for Google Glasses too!

Photo of Paul Reader
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Hi Paul and Jes
How much could you trust existing recyclers to provide data on recyclability of barcoded/described/photorecognised items in the database? I am asking this in relation to both this app (and the similar apps here) and recycleopedia. Effectively using crowdsourcing as a means to updating. We looked to utilise this on a limited basis on the development of the Founders Dictionary in the Web Entrepreneurs challenge
Having looked at the recycleopedia site it looks a great resource. If I might offer one suggestion - I tried putting in the numbers 2 and 7 (separately) but found no match - would it be of any assistance to identify plastic components by their numbered recycling symbols?

Paul - I am interested in your comment on contamination. Do you mean non-recyclable items going in the recycling bin or, as Alessandro Prati observes on Goders' concept, contamination between recyclable items (eg. glass in paper bin).? I ask because here our existing municipally operated household recycling utilises co-mingled (all in one) recycling bins. Also ours are yellow lidded: whereas we utilise green lidded bins for compostable waste.

Photo of Paul Bearman
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Hi Paul
All comes down to trust on both sides - public need to trust app results are correct, and crowd sourcing needs to be trusted to work - we've all seen stories of wikipedia containing wrong info.

With regards to adding numbers on Recycleopedia.com - when I first started out I listed these but nowadays it'll give no results if I did add them, unfortunately (as I quickly discovered) no one simply collects type 2, type 4 etc. plastic - same plastic but made/treated in different ways means that it needs recycling in different ways, so really the numbers don't mean much to people looking at how to recycle the product, much like most of the symbols on packaging.

Contamination - talking on a co-mingled side of things (what we have locally). My local recycling processing place (run by Viridor) says they aim for a 4% contamination rate and reckon that anything over 1.5% is due to people not putting right items in the right bin. Apparently they collect literally tonnes of scrap metal per week from bins that are only supposed to contain paper, plastic bottles, cans and glass - eg. they pull out things like chainsaws and hosepipes regularly, that's not just accidentally putting wrong things in!

Photo of Paul Reader
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Thanks for clarification Paul.
I understand about numbers - our co-mingled accepts only some of the types of plastic but cans and things can go in the same bin.
Melbourne City council ( http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/ForResidents/WasteRecyclingandNoise/householdgarbage/Pages/recycling.aspx ) accepts ABS as well and things like pots and pans.
It seems to depend in part on the technology being employed to separate them.
Of course things like chain saws and hose-pipes should be recyclable too, just not through the regular collection process.

Photo of Jes Simson
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Thanks for your valuable insights Paul and Paul.

Paul B - I'm really interested in your research on a user's lack of will to differentiate between types of plastics (eg: numbers 2 or 7). Have you found that inputting product name / product type (eg: Heinz baked beans can or coka cola 1.25 L bottle ) has been more successful? I'm ask intrigued by the people who include items that are blatantly not recyclable in their recycling bins. Has your research revealed whether the people who put chainsaws (etc) in the recycling don't care, aren't able to find appropriate recycling centres, or can't be bothered to go to those recycling centres (assuming that is harder than recycling household recyclable goods)?

Paul R - Do you think that arming users with information about why certain items can't be recycled in certain locations would help keep users engaged in the recycling process?

Photo of Paul Reader
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Hi Jes - thanks for the team add. I can only give a gut feeling reply to your excellent question. For those who actively engage through the use of an app or a website I think the answer is probably yes. The fact that they are engaging suggests to me their curiosity is already piqued and they will be open to receiving and perhaps even prepared to act on such additional information..

Photo of Jes Simson
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Thanks for your help Paul! My gut is also giving me the same inklings.

Photo of Denise Bartolome
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I can see how Kenneth Walton's app can work with this app idea for one terrific app. His is the one about showing users what certain items can be turned into when you recycle.

Photo of Jes Simson
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Thanks for the heads up Denise - Keneth's app is great and we really should collaborate together.

Photo of Paul Reader
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Denise (and Jes), I agree!
In fact all the app based solutions proposed have features collectively and individually that would be good to integrate.
Rob Han and Goders focus on rewarding recycling in a social context and building data to both achieve this and provide useful community feedback. This app focuses on the suitability for recycling and the means/location to achieve the desired result.
Your proposal for a link to recycling centres (or whatever else they are called around the world) based upon established localities like postcodes is great and would, in my opinion, represent the first point of call for user selection. I would like to see it broadened so that user input of a postcode is translated into GPS coordinates for mapping purposes. Such coordinates would identify the recycling point both on the map and in the database of recycling recorded through the other apps. Additionally, where a postcode is not known or non-existent input of current GPS coordinates either manually or automatically would allow interrogation of the back-end database for the nearest recycling point..
Those responsible for the recycling points could be encouraged to add their location to the backend and/or this information could be crowdsourced as is done now with social mapping on things like restaurants.

Photo of Jes Simson
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Hey Paul, I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply to your insightful response - I've had a crazy couple of weeks.

All of the app based solutions share commonalities and that this app probably serves as the first (and least glamorous step) in that process.

I want the app to use automatic geo-location for location input - the manual suburb input is only required where the app fails to properly locate where you are. Your suggestion to alert local recycling companies / councils where the app doesn't have the appropriate information is inspired. Thank you so much for your input.

Photo of Paul Bearman
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I have just re-launched my Recycleopedia products including a working version that covers part of this idea... http://www.recycleopedia.info/

Photo of Jes Simson
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Hey Paul. Hat's off to you, recycleopedia is looking fantastic! I especially like the new shop, it's inspiring to see what you can make out of your 'rubbish'. Are you approaching different vendors to sell on the shop? I also like how you have incorporated an auto suggest function into your search tool. Incorporating the bin graphics, map and picture of the item is also going really well. Are you seeking these pictures from users or are you uploading them yourself?

Photo of Suzie Prince
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Hi Jes

I love your idea, I'd totally use it.

One thing that I have been thinking about it how to recycle or upcycle more unusual items like batteries, light bulbs, clothes, garden waste etc.... These are the items I usually don't reuse or recycle as best that I could.

I have a few of ideas on this:

1. you could use image recognition in these cases to identify the items as they are bigger and pretty obvious
2. you use sources like Yelp or Yellow Pages (see http://www.yelp.com/c/sf/recyclingcenter or http://www.yellowpages.com/los-angeles-ca/recycling-centers) to offer suitable places for people to take this stuff to. For example, clothes can got to thrift stores or charity shops so you could suggest those places if the user has clothes to recycle
3. if you are unable to match a location to recycle an item because you don't have data or there are none in the local area you could make it fun by offering ways to reuse the items such as these http://www.pinterest.com/ecodivastv/50-ways-to-reuse-bottles-jars/ or http://www.instructables.com/id/REUSE-PLASTIC-BOTTLES-1/

I hope these ideas help you out. If I can help further let me know.

Cheers Suzie

Photo of Paul Reader
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You are right Suzie.
Most of the ideas up for refinement are focussing on improved habits for the easy stuff.
Of course that is a very good thing but it is only part of the story.In doing research for discussion during refinement I was amazed at what can now be recycled with relative ease, at least in many urban areas.
Your batteries for example: ( http://www.batteryrecycling.org.au/recycling/handheld-batteries ).
Want to recycle DVDs? ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sv8pJfCCwxI )
Almost nothing should be going to landfill there is a solution for just about everything if we are willing to look and be bothered ( http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/live/waste-and-recycling/e-waste-and-chemicals/battery-mobile-and-light-bulb-recycling ).

Some of our OpenIDEO solutions are adaptable to helping householders both improve their common recycling habits and form a new habit of asking "Can I keep this out of landfill?"

Photo of Suzie Prince
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Absolutely Paul, that is a great question.

Thankfully I live in an area where they have made the recycling part very easy and so now I've moved on to how better to reuse and recycle other things. For anyone interested in this topic I suggest looking at http://www.recology.com/ as they have seemingly to be done a great job of encouraging people to recycle more and reach their goals of zero waste by 2020. Thanks S.

Photo of Jes Simson
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Hey Suzie and Paul - these are great insights.

I completely agree that this app needs to arm people who don't recycle with basic recycling know how as well as arming good recyclers with the knowledge about how they could recycle better. We need to include as much information as possible about as many products as possible.

In Australia, a number of companies actually accept recyclable goods as part of their sustainability programs. For instance, Harvey Norman, a national electronics retailer, accepts and recycles televisions. Officeworks will recycle e-waste for you. However, not many people know that these services are available and consequently many televisions and computers still make their way to landfill. Both of your post's point towards various community organisations and businesses who accept goods for recycling. So - we either need to crowdsource information about where items can be recycled or we need to the incentivise these parities to input information about what they will accept for recycling for this to be a feasible tool.

I also completely agree that most of what we consume can be reused, recycled or upcylced in one way or another (thanks for those links Suzie, they're great!). I think that we should include links to these projects where possible and relevant. These links will probably need to be crowdsourced. However, I do think that reusing / up cycling should be seen as a last resort for the app given that the people who have the time / creativity / desire to recycle and upcycle items will probably use Google to find their own possibilities. I'm completely biased by my own experiences, but I have a lot of materials that I have set aside for a rainy day to upcycle / reuse and then never find the time to actually do so.

Finally, I think we need to give users a meaningful reason why certain goods can't be recycled. This could help people maintain respect for the capabilities of the recycling system (for instance, I always got really annoyed by the fact that plastic bottle caps can't be recycled in Australia until I found out that it's because the size of those caps can harm the machines that sort recycling). It could also arm people with the knowledge about the recycling limitations for certain goods that they consume.

I apologize for falling off this thread for the last few weeks - I had a crazy couple of weeks.

Photo of Allison
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Perhaps for those things that cannot be recycled, it might be good at that stage to provide a few resources on what else can be done with it? Of course this will vary by region - at the worldwide or national level, it could simply link to general references such as freecycle.org, or retail chains that accept certain materials - locally would open up other possibilities. For instance here in Chicago there are places that take large items like building materials - the city provides alternate suggestions on its website as well (http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/streets/supp_info/recycling1/recylingaz/lettera1.html) which would be a great feature to have in this app, whether it integrates with existing resources, or maybe can incorporate user contributions?

Photo of Paul Bearman
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With Recycleopedia.com users can add the location of recycling points - for any material, (http://www.recycleopedia.com/centres/new) eg. http://www.terracycle.co.uk/ collection points & charity shops. We have freecycle/freegle as general locations but have yet to build them in as an area wide coverage - bit more coding needed! Users can also add 'items' that arn't listed in the database.

Photo of Jes Simson
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Hey Allison and Paul - great ideas! It's really important to link up with all the possible upcylcing / freecylcing possibilities.

I only thought about the possibility of linking up with charity / opportunity / thrift shops but we really should link people with recycling / upcycling opportunities for all unused household goods. There is such a big opportunity to find homes for building and other household materials - you usually have to buy these is such unnecessarily large quantities.

Photo of Allison
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Yes upcycling is an often forgotten option for things like broken electronics and worn out clothing... connecting the general public to niche communities like local maker/hacker spaces, artists/crafters, teachers/schools in need of materials even, would be great - I know there is a market for all kinds of scrap material - often it's just a matter of making people aware this need exists and making them easy to find.

Photo of Paul Reader
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Agreed on both the upcycling and surplus material markets - there are some possible ideas for these options in the E-Waste challenge ( https://openideo.com/challenge/e-waste/evaluation/farmers-market-ewaste-not-booth ) and ( https://openideo.com/challenge/e-waste/evaluation/hand-me-down-an-educational-campaign-with-placement-service-for-second-hand-electronics- ) amongst others.

Photo of OpenIDEO
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Jess, another great idea into our Top 25 shortlist. We love how you’ve used simple tools to prototype your app which itself is a lovely, simple tool to help demystify local recycling. ‘How do I recycle this’ builds on existing behaviours and may not be hard to prototype as barcode scanners are used in other apps to show things like nutritional value. In Refinement, we’d encourage you to look for local databases that might be good enough to support an app like yours, or perhaps look into how local Recycling Champions could help crowdsource more accurate, up to date data? As an awesome collaborator, you’re probably aware of other community members looking for data-input for their apps, so keep on sharing your findings and tips and we’re positive you all will cross the data hurdle in no time! Another challenge we have for you, is to think about how you might engage non-recyclers who aren’t all that interested in recycling in the first place? For more tips for this Refinement phase, check out http://ideo.pn/re-refine-tips and catch our Lowdown on Refinement at http://bit.ly/oi_refine.

Photo of Jes Simson
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Thanks OpenIDEO for your help!

Photo of Rachit Gupta
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I really like it when you talk about making the experience of recycling simple and very easy. I too think it is essential and required! But I think here we are making a blurry assumption that people "want" to recycle and would take the effort of scanning the bar code and learning about it. It is a lot harder than just throwing it in a nearby trash!

I strongly feel that to make people learn, and make conscious efforts, some legit form of incentive needs to be there so that they start caring for these initiatives. There are a lot of cool ideas in here and I think combining them into a single idea would be something awesome to discuss! What are your thoughts?

Photo of Jes Simson
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Thanks Rachit - I agree that this app relies on a massive assumption that people want to recycle and that this is a really tough motivational barrier to break. I was hoping to help people who already have the motivation, but lack the motivation to find out how. I was really concerned about making the app as simple as possible, which may limit other functionalities (like increasing motivation). What are your thoughts?

Photo of Rachit Gupta
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Hey Jes,

That makes sense!

I think we have two basic things to deal with. First, the product specific knowledge. Second, the location specific knowledge. Also, I think we can relax on providing incentives since we are targeting users who come with a task in mind. Right?

# How do you check notification here? I don't seem to get any notification when anyone replies to your comments!

Photo of Jes Simson
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Hey Rachit - exactly, the aim is to build up product and location specific recycling knowledge as quickly and seamlessly as possible. The app still needs to provide some sort of incentive for people to engage with it - however, this incentive will be different to one aimed at motivating people to recycle. I'm playing around with tone of voice / visuals to try and engage and entertain users and encourage them to keep on recycling. Thanks for your help! (as for the notifications, I have no idea - maybe ask Meena?)

Photo of Catherine GIRAUD-MAINAND
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Hi Jes,
In France thé company In charge of organising thé waste recoolection from households développed an App. It si not made with bar codes or flash codes, but on thé type of products, sorted n'y main families'
You may want to have a look at it, at http://www.ecoemballages.fr/grand-public/trier-cest-facile/le-guide-du-tri
Unfortunately it is In French.

Photo of Jes Simson
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Merci Catherine. The app is so simple to use that I didn't even need my bad french to work it out. I really like the colour coding and strong use of visuals to engage and help people.

I also like how the app points you towards your closest facilities with limited friction.

The use of families to categories the products is great and would work really well for a smaller touch screen. This is definitely another information design system that would be great to prototype.

Does the app work in all French regions?

Thank you again

Photo of Paul Bearman
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Reply to original Post from Rachit...

The motivation to recycle is a big problem that I think is sometimes hard for people like us who 'get it' and want to recycle to see on the other side of. I recently spoke to a local authority in the UK who said in some areas people are struggling to even find/afford food in the first place so why would they care about recycling - or even using a waste bin.

Maybe the solution comes down to the old adage of money - or at least something worth something to everybody universally. - Like returning glass bottles to get cash back in the old days? Maybe in a different way with points collected, if a hookup could be made with a group such as Nectar points or Tesco Clubcard (in the UK) - or even 'Coke Points'! - then that would be a massive boost of encouragement. Carrots not sticks!

Photo of Jes Simson
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Hey Paul, I completely agree that this doesn't really touch the incentives issue. There are a couple of great ideas out there that are trying to address this issue - see https://openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/ideas/recycling-loyalty-card for club card points and https://openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/ideas/the-best-green-brands-the-best-green-people-of-2014-and-beyond-brand-strategy-guerilla-marketing-tactics-consumer-incentives for a vending machine

Photo of Paul Bearman
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I think it would be fairly easy to incorporate both ideas into one app and make it an even better tool. A lot of work to set up reward points system from scratch though. Maybe new thinking on making it easy for independent retailers (rather than big ones) to 'sign up' too. Maybe without having to sell it to them too much, make it generate QR codes that people can use at their tills for money off/promotions? They get free local advertising, app gets incentives for users.

Photo of Jes Simson
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Hey Paul - using discount incentives could work really well. It allows brands who offer discounts the ability to align their brand with sustainability issues and achieve cheapish adverting. I also agree that all retailers need to be able to come to the party (small and large). Perhaps these incentives could be rolled out in non-related fields. China and Brazil has recently allowed people to top up public transport cards using recycling http://ecowatch.com/2013/08/05/plastic-recycling-transit-fares-china/ and https://openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/research/when-beer-rio-festival-and-recycling-all-make-sense

Photo of Jacque Harper
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Very nice work on the prototype. It helps clearly demonstrate the idea.
The idea I suggested would basically add the ability to enter a recycling code --the type we see in the U.S., especially for plastics -- rather than rely on the bar code. Especially when buying something in a plastic tub at a delicatessen, the bar code doesn't reliably tell you what the package material would be.
I haven't investigated deeply, but here in Chicago, the city provides an API for developers to build applications using city data: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/narr/foia/CityData.html . If information about the city's recycling program is in the API, and if other cities provide something similar, a living, updatable dataset for "what can be recycled" is possible!

Photo of Jes Simson
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Hey Jacque thank you for the kind words.

Being able to type in the recycling codes would be a great feature. My next prototype is going to prompt the user to type in recycling info rather than use the barcode (this is proving really difficult to hook up to recycling info / it also has major drawbacks where there isn't a barcode or where the app fails to scan it properly).

The app would basically ask the user about the product's material (plastic, paper, cardboard) then diving deeper into the type (or brand type where necessary) (so for plastics - no. 1 - 7 etc). Basically merging Catherine's suggestion below (and link to: http://www.ecoemballages.fr/grand-public/trier-cest-facile/le-guide-du-tri) with the data input that Paul's incredible app uses.

I can't believe that Chicago provides an API for developers - that's amazing. I'm pretty sure we don't have that in Australia.

Photo of Jacque Harper
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I (still) have not dug in to the Chicago data to see if the needed information is there. But it also occurs to me that like @PaulBearman's http://www.openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/research/i-created-recycleopedia-com-to-help-people-recycle-more-at-home , this information could be crowd-sourced. It shouldn't change with high frequency, so a "live" connection isn't necessary.

Elsewhere (so many threads of conversation going on here!) you asked about the recycling codes. Yes, here in the US, those are embossed on the plastic, and can be very hard to read under some conditions (clear plastic, low light, glare etc.). I wonder if the image from a smartphone's camera could be enhanced to make the numbers more readable (i.e. increase contrast, de-saturate colors etc.). At the same time, in the majority of cases, the code can be read with the naked eye.

So it feels to me like we're moving towards a smartphone app that:
- knows the user's location/can confirm the location
- can look up recycling information for that location
- can scan a barcode and probably identify the material in question
- can accept a number code or other description to identify the material
- looks up "recyclable here or not" and "what bin to use"
- has a section for user input (crowdsource data) "this location accepts/doesn't accept this material"
- has an information section ("why can't I recycle this here?")
- (maybe) can take a picture and enhance it to help a person read the embossed code
And these features are kind of, but not exactly in that order of importance.

There could also be a website providing access to the same recyclable here/not information ... without some of the features, like image manipulation ... but definitely with the crowdsourcing data component.

Photo of Jes Simson
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Hey Jacque - I think you have summed up the appropriate features brilliantly.

As far how users should identify the material (whether this is using the barcode or inputting the data yourself or by another means) I think this will depend on (a) what is the most user friendly in that geographic area, and (b) what is feasible (eg: can we actually get the data to link up to all barcodes, will smart phones reliably be able to scan the barcode etc.)

As to how to source the information, again I think that the solution will be what is feasible in that geographic area. I think that the crowdsourcing possibility would be great where it isn't possible to get information directly from the council or recycling body (as Paul Bearman has done with Recyclepedia).

I'll also add that the app has to be super user friendly and engaging if it is going to nudge people to become better recyclers.

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Congrats on this post being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Jes Simson
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Thanks openIDEO!

Photo of Meena Kadri
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We also thought your idea could benefit from some aspects of this idea: ww.openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/ideas/explain-the-barriers-and-reasons-why-change-peoples-habits-through-making-it-clear-why-you-can-recycle-different-items-in-different-areas Given collaboration is the name of the game here at OpenIDEO, we hope you might reach out and collaborate to grow each other's concepts.

Photo of Emma Hunt
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Jes - thanks for posting cute prototype, POP looks like a great app. Have you thought about the motivational language you will use to get the user to drop the bottle in the recycling bin?

Photo of Jes Simson
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Hey Emma. I haven't really thought about what kind of language you could use to engage people to drop recycling in the bin - but I would love some input if you have any ideas. I'm trying to develop language for both this idea and another one that's on the boil at the moment. I'm finding it difficult to craft language that is engaging but also appeals to a mass audience.
http://openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/ideas/changing-the-label-to-trigger-recycling-behaviour

Photo of Sarah Fathallah
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Great idea Jes! I really like how you thought through the user experience. One suggestion on how you could prototype this and take it to the next level is to use a simple prototyping app like POP (https://popapp.in/) which allows you to take different drawings or screenshots and link them together so you can users try it out on their phone. This would allow you to get feedback on how to improve your idea from real users (even better if this is happening in real-life situations, so you could start by testing it out with friends/family in their respective homes).

Photo of Jes Simson
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Thanks for your help Sarah - this looks like an incredible prototype marker. I'm looking forward to playing with it.

Photo of Rachit Gupta
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I would like to add here that POP is a very simple and elegant tool! I'm learning a great deal about interaction design and I love it! Besides it's free!

Photo of Jes Simson
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Hey Sarah - I've posted a really simple prototype of the app at: https://popapp.in/projects/535d8e8d9738be984f454172/preview
It's such an incredibly easy way to prototype apps - thanks for the heads up!