Dirty recyclables lead to contamination, which is one of the biggest factors in driving up recycling costs. ECRecycle is a 14-week course project that aims to educate consumers and help them classify and recycle waste properly for lowering the contamination rate.
Mobile | Research | Prototype | User Testing | Animation
People think they can throw anything into the blue bin and it will get recycled. That's just not true.
ECRecycle let users understand what they need to improve by providing professional feedback.
When people take household blue bins to the street, the bins will be inspected. A recycle score is sent to them later through ECRecycle.
Using the same app, inspectors will scan the barcode on the blue bins and provide feedback for everyday consumers.
Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) generate profit by selling sorted recyclables. When people do not recycle properly, the contamination rate goes up and MRFs have a harder time sorting wastes.
We conducted 15 interviews, with participants ranging from age 18 to 45. We wanted to understand the goals and frustrations of our users. Using affinity diagram, we distilled their major pain points.
People need easy access to recycling services.
People need to be incentivized to recycle regularly.
People often throw things they think can be recycled into recycle bins and hope it can be processed.
People want to know whether they recycled correctly. They also want to know how their actions can create impact.
Our team got an opportunity to visit a facility of Athens Services, one of the largest recycling companies in the US. We gained a lot of insights talking to the staff and seeing the sorting lines. Below are some of their pain points.
MRFs need recyclables that are better sorted and cleaned.
MRFs want better ways to educate consumers about recycling without generating confusion.
We tested our prototypes with 15 people. Because our scenario consists of a digital prototype and real-life actions, we gave them a script with a few different tasks. The initial prototype had some issues but the bigger problem is our solution. The process is too complicated for our users, whose primary need is convenience.
After the user tests, we rethought through our solution and asked ourselves the question:
How do we make ECRecycle convenient?
With the question in mind, we returned to the research phase. We looked up more existing solutions that are not only viable, but also put as little burden on the recyclers as possible. Eventually, we found that some MRFs would hire inspectors to check household recycle bins before the truck arrive. They put tags on blue bins to tell residents what they did wrong. We decided to incorporate that idea into our final solution.