Concept and design for a recycling product that makes recycling easier and rewarding.

I interviewed 24 people between the ages of 20 and 45 about their recycling habits.

When asked whether or not they recycled and why...


Interviews and surveys

I conducted a google survey as well as in person interviews. I specifically recruited people that lived in metro areas since cities in those areas produce the most waste. The goal of these interviews was to get a better understanding of peoples' recycling habits when on the go and at home as well as to get their opinions on their impact on the environment.

Synthesis and key findings

After synthesizing my research I found that there were four categories I was able to group this research into. Convenience, cleanliness, payoff and confusion. I was not surprised to see that convenience and cleanliness were issues. I was actually really shocked by the amount of confusion around recycling and the lack of payoff.


Participants said they don't recycle because they don't have time to separate trash nor do they have the space in their apartments, homes or kitchens to have multiple trash bins. Some say they will recycle at work or on the go if things are easily labeled.


Participants said they don't recycle because they don't like waiting for the trash bags to fill up before taking them outside to put on the curb. Keeping the trash in their home for too long is not clean. They don't use the public bins because they're dirty and they don't want to touch the handles.


Participants said they don't think recycling will do anything to help the environment. Everyone would have to do it in order for it to have an impact. Not just a small few. Some thinks it's a lot of work for only a little bit of impact and way too much work to only get a few pennies back on bottle return. The environment is not going to get better in their lifetimes. Not enough people are doing it.


Some participants mentioned they don't understand how to recycle because their city has a lot of rules. One participant is confused by items that have mixed marterials (milk carton with a plastic cap: Is the carton considered paper?) One participant wasn't sure why he couldn't recycle plastic bags along with other plastics. They don't want to be fined for not recycling properly so they don't do it.

The problem I suspect is people want to do their part to help the environment but not at the expense of convenience and gratification.


After synthesizing my research, I came up with two types of users. Each had a particular goal they were trying to achieve when recycling. Below are my personas and their goals.

Matt C.
29, Project Manager, $120K, New York
Matt is a project manager at a digital publishing company. He want's to do his part to help the environment. He's always on the go and when he is, he looks for recycling bins to throw away his wrapper from the bagels he eats on his way to work or the water bottle he picked up on the way to the barber. Recycling bins are not on every corner so he has to walk until he finds one. If he doesn't find one by the time he gets to his destination, he throws his recycleables in a regular bin and he feels bad about this.
Matt's Goal

Matt wants a convenient way to recycle on the go.

Karen H.
33, Pharmacist, $150K, Houston, TX
Karen is a project manager at a digital publishing company. She's not big on recycling. She recycles at work because her office has clearly labeled bins but secretly, she feels the impact doesn't match the effort and the effort doesn't match the payoff. She sees bottle deposit bins in the supermarket by her house but she doesn't use them. She thinks it's too much work to save so many bottles only to get a few cents back on the return.
Karen's Goal

Karen wants to see the payoff for her recycling efforts.

How might we give city-goers a fast, sanitary and instantly gratifying recycling experience?


Competitive analysis

I did a search to see what the top recycling apps and sites are and there are a lot that already exist. Mostly all of them provide clairty and information on what can be recycled and how to recycle it. Some of them tell the user how the recycling of their items are impacting the environment and some them provide trash pick up schedules. One of them ( has a map that shows nearby recycling locations.

However, none of them address peoples' concerns about payoff in terms of instant gratification. Sure INSERT APP NAME tells someone how much energy they are saving by recycling their air conditioning unit but the person doesn't FEEL that. It's not tangible. My research clearly showed me that even though people are doing their part, they don't feel the environment getting better.

Even though there are ways to measure the quality of the air or the status of global warming, people want to know what is all this effort going to do for them in their lifetime?

Treasure is a recycling service that offers a fast, sanitary and instantly gratifying recycling experience with the use of city wide recycling bins and in-app reward program.


I figure there are three essentials city-goers need to have an ideal recycling experience. 1: A convenient and sanitary way to use recyling bins. 2: A way to get info on how to recycle things they are unsure of. 3. Instant gratification for doing their part. I came up with features that support these needs and created a site map with these needs as the foundation.


Recycling Bins

Recycling bins will be place around the city. City-goers can use these bins to recycle on-the-go items such as bottles, food containers and paper. The bins are smart enough to recognize what types of materials are being inserted. No need to touch any handles or any buttons. No need for hand sanitizer. Users only need to open the app on their phone to allow the bin to scan their P.I.N.


Users get points every time they recycle something at a recycling bin or even when they schedule recycling pick ups via the app. Once these points accumulate, user can put them towards gift cards, electronics and other rewards or the user can get a cash back value for their points.

Ask How

Users can ask the app how to recycle items or materials they are unsure of. With this feature, user can type, speak or take a picture of the item. The app will use photo recognition to identify the item and give recycling information.

Recycling Bin GPS

Users have access to a map that shows recycling bins throughout their city so they never have to walk out of their way to do their part. If a bin is in need of maintenace, it will not show on the map.

R1: Usability testing

I put together low fidelity wireframes for my first round of testing. I tested 5 people and gave them each one of three tasks: Pretend to recycle a bottle into a machine, find out how they would recycle an AC unit, get cash back for their rewards. Below is the feedback from that first round.

R2: Usability testing

In my second round of testing, I switched out the ask icon for something that has more of a query feel to it, removed unneccessary buttons, made the cash back value more prominent and I tried something different with the navigation. Below is the feedback for the second round.

Logo, colors and font

By making a small tweak to a very recognizable symbol, I was able to create a bold symbolic logo. One could argue that even the logo is "recycled". I wanted something earthy for the branding so I went with a refreshing green as the brand's primary color. The color pallett is based on different types of recycling and trash bags that we use from day to day.


As soon as the app is launched (assuming the user has already created a profile and is signed in) the very first screen they see is the Deposit screen. Since the primary purpose of the app is to give users a sanitary recycling experienve that is also immediately rewarding, the Deposit screen is what user will use to have their codes scanned by our recycling bins to start their deposit session. No need to touch the bins at all. Once users finish inserting their bottles, they can tap done and they are instantly rewarded with points.

Ask How

This feature is great for users that are not sure how to recycle a certain material. Users can type, speak or take a picture of the item they want to recycle and get information on how to do so.


Even though people cannot actually SEE the impact their recycling efforts have on the environment, this doesn't mean they can't see the financial impact. The goal is to motivate and incentivize users to do their part. While some people might scoff at a reward of $2.75, that's a free subway ride in New York language. By giving users cash back options that are more tangible and relateable, they are able to see how recycling pays them back in their day to day.

Web experience

Not a primary use case but wanted to show how people could interact with the service via web browser. The primary action on web would more than likely be to get recycling information. I showcased the Ask How feature as the page's header and followed it with recycling facts, a map of recycling locations and info on how to order recycling bags or dumpsters.