Help people be more conscious about the waste they throw away
On average, a typical middle-class family wastes over 4 million pounds of materials to keep up with their lifestyle. 4 million pounds is the equivalent of nine blue whales 🐋 🐋 🐋 🐋 🐋 🐋 🐋 🐋 🐋
A majority of that is what they throw away or recycle on a daily basis. How can citizens be more conscious about the waste they throw away?
Waste management involves the regular collection, disposal, recycling and monitoring of different types of waste materials. These services can save a family a considerable amount of money, and can also prevent the environment from being harmed.
This is the story of how I made a positive difference to help average North American family manage the waste in a better way through an app.
People usually overlook trash collection and removal services. Poor waste management can cause negative environmental impact. The more waste that a household produces, the more likely it is that the waste ends up at a landfill. Landfills are known to impact air and water quality, which can have a serious impact on local communities.
Effectively managing waste can be difficult, especially when people are not conscious about the waste they throw away.
Without a solution, it is hard to manage their waste disposal efficiently. Feel free to be a little imaginative with the potential of how hardware and software can coincide to solve the problem.
A 3-day workshop was conducted with the stakeholders. My research encompassed -
• Understanding waste management practices in a shorter period of time.
• Reasons behind less consciousness and motivation
• Role of technology
• How is the success of the tasks measured
Waste generation, management and reduction
Policies and practices are inconsistent across municipalities
Lack of available alternatives and motivations (e.g. compost, enforceable laws) removes sense of responsibility and accountability
There is a general lack of education on the topics of waste generation and reduction
Role of technology
Technological components currently being used and could be integrated with a residential waste management solution, the following items proved most feasible with respect to available tech, market/availability, and ease of use:
RFID tracking: Collects and shares data regarding amount of waste collected; signal need for pick up; report analytics.
Camera and AI: Ability to train receptacle to recognize and advise on waste sorting.
Sensors and messaging: Sensors trigger customizable responsive messages, including environmental facts and demonstrating money saved.
Interviews & Surveys
With the knowledge of Design Thinking, our team elected to administer a survey to the general public and interview two participants each (total of eight) to glean a deeper understanding of waste management practices in a shorter period of time.
The survey consisted of 15 questions and received responses from 41 participants who matched our demographic criteria for an average middle-class family (e.g. age, family size, children, household income).
8 in-person interviews were conducted with questions structured off the survey questions.
Findings from Interviews & Surveys
Does your household recycle?
90% of respondents regularly recycle, and 88% of respondents feel they could be doing more;
Our research also indicated that respondents had a difficult time locating disposal guidelines for various items (e.g. spoiled cardboard, foil plates, light bulbs)
If a tool or service was available that could help you reduce the amount of waste your household produced, would you use it?
72% of those that answered said “yes”, if a tool or service was available that could help them reduce the amount of waste their household produced, they would use it.
Are you concerned about the potential impact of waste on our environment?
Over 81% of respondents are slightly or very concerned about the potential impact of waste on our environment, and while over 90% recycled to some degree, 88% of those respondents felt they could be doing more.
Would you prefer a physical or digital solution?
70% of respondents would prefer a solution that combines both physical and digital components;
And also, that respondents had an interest in tracking their waste management efforts.
Using the quantitative and qualitative data from interviews and survey results, I defined the two target group profiles Mary-Anne (Financial Advisor, 29) and Bob (City bus driver, 52) to better empathize with my main user groups and prioritize goals according to their needs.
User Experience Map
A product-based journey map helped to better understand the trash disposal process as well as the user and their experience in them. The originally planned syllabus was greatly adapted as there were unnecessary and unfavorable steps coming to light.
An intuitive, user-friendly app that provides recycling solutions and education about waste management, makes it easy to efficiently manage trash in busy everyday life.
Test the concept for our solution with our target audience
Identify gaps in user flow and pain points with the solution
Identify bugs and/or other issues with the solution
About our users
Mix of male and female participants (six total), aged 26-56 years old. Experience with technology and concern regarding household waste accumulation varied.
Methods used and key findings
Our testing participants received a link to test the app on their smartphone or personal computer. Participants were instructed to "speak aloud" during their test and team members recorded general observations, facial expressions, words, and behaviours. Participants then completed a system usability scale and were able to provide other feedback/recommendations not previously captured.
The majority of participants understood the purpose of the Waste Smart app and found it easy to use
The majority of participants thought definitions should be added to explain Upcycling and Bin Buddy
Color coding and displaying similarly disposed of items together consistently received positive feedback from users
Simplicity is strength
As a designer, we are often lured by attractive, trendy and out of the box designs. But, We must always remember the ‘why’. The primary goal is to understand the user, their problems and then come up with a design that solves it.
Seek out feedback early and continually
The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. Keeping the stakeholders/users in loop and testing solutions in whatever form (paper, low-fi or hi-fi) as early as possible saves ample amount of time and re-work.