Challenge 10 Write Up: New Recycling Solution

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We need to recycle; Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour and most of them are thrown away. Plastic bottles take thousands of years to decompose, and burning plastic in an incinerator expends a huge amount of energy.


While recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as burning it in an incinerator, and recycling one ton of plastic saves the equivalent of 1,000-2,000 gallons of gasoline, there has not really been a recycling solution for the future.

Our ideas is to build a smart, communal recycling trash-can that uses sensors, QR codes, and bluetooth technology. Using a gamified app, individuals will collect points for recycling and can compete with their peers to see who can recycle the most. There are a lot of good products that use smart technology to track consumption and waste, and there are also interesting community programs that use peer-motivation to increase recycling. However, we observed that there is a void in that there is no product that seeks to intersect these two models to incentivize smart recycling.

We also hope to motivate people to incentivize by offering awards (such as discounts to stores we partner with). There are a lot of companies that heavily promote environmental sustainability as part of their image and they would potentially be interested in having the points turn into coupons or discounts at their stores. Partnering with us would be a form of free marketing, and would also be a way to drive additional business. It is easy to imagine Whole Foods as a natural partner.Additionally, one could be rewarded with bonus points for being in the top 10 for your town or any other “big rewards” type deals. Maybe a free iPhone or even something cooler for being the “best recycler” in [a given town]. Also, people could have profiles and could look up their friends to see if they are recycling and how well they are doing and social influence could help to motivate people to recycle even more.Much like the system that electric companies use where they tell people how well they are doing in comparison to their neighbors.



– Green Handed Prize Patrol in Charlotte: Get Caught Green Handed patrol looks for do-gooders (people recycling) and rewards them with gift cards, deli sandwiches, etc.

– Cleveland outfits resident recycling carts with RFID tags: If the chip indicates the recycling cart hasn’t been brought to the curb in a few weeks, a trash supervisor will sort through the trash looking for recyclables. If paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles, and cans make up more than 10% of the trash, the offender receives a $100 fine. City officials are motivated by more than just concerns for the earth. While the city has to pay $30 million a year to dispose of trash, it earns $26 per ton of recyclables.

– Recyclebank partners with communities and waste haulers around the country to reward residents like you for recycling. We work with communities to find out how much recyclable material was collected. The collective weight is then converted to Recyclebank points and shared amongst all of the residents in the community that recycled. So, the more everyone recycles, the more points you earn!

– Germany (most competitively similar idea): At supermarkets people bring their bottles and cans and put all the bottles in and they get a receipt compensating them for all of the recycled goods they bring that they then show the cashier upon checkout. The country has an 87% recycling rate.

– EZ-H2O water machine – keeps tally of all of the water bottles saved at the given machine – while a different product, it uses a similar idea of incentivizing use by providing direct feedback of the good that person is doing.


– Uzer Smart Bin: Recycling bin that helps sort plastics and cardboard. It has a barcode scanner that tells you how to throw away individual components of food. For example, a microwave meal would require you to throw away cardboard in one bin and the plastic wrapping in another. Also keeps track of what you threw away, so that you can repurchase more food if necessary.

– Big Belly: Solar compactor trash can that makes trashcans far more efficient. It is also linked to the internet and notifies those in charge of trash that the can is full.

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