Impacts to Public Recycling from Psychological and Technological Stimulus

Investigators: University of Georgia

Start Date:
Jul 2011

End Date:
Jun 2012

Award Amount:

Technology has a finite point relevant to attaining sustainability. Human behavior must be considered, and is especially relevant in the case of solid waste management where reducing, reusing and recycling of waste all encompass influencing human behavior. The Industrial Revolution brought us technology, advancement and comfort, all steps in the right direction. However, advanced technology can also create a “disconnection” with nature and the natural world, exacerbate a negative mentality if people don’t understand the connection of, for example, waste collection and management with what actually occurs at a recycling facility or landfill.

Human behavior is a crucial issue related to conserving natural resources and reducing environmental impact, not only because people can directly affect their environment in a positive or negative way, but also because it is still a hard task to commit to by most people. Working in a community in order to achieve a better life for future generations (though it is a moral issue for many), still requires extra effort, and in people’s busy lives, it is practically impossible to put time and effort into solving a problem that is often being managed by large companies and governments. With this in mind, it is not surprising that many individuals do not feel it is necessary to participate in activities such as recycling, and/or water and energy conservation. The lack of commitment by most of the people is a critical component to any waste management approach that depends on community participation and response.

The overall objective of this project is to examine the impacts to recycling in public areas in response to a combination of technological and psychological stimuli. More specifically, the objectives are to:

1. Evaluate the impacts to recycling from the placement of a public ‘smart’ recycle bin engineered with eco-feedback technology.

2. Promote public awareness of smart-bin recycling activities by designing a web portal that aggregates and visualizes recycling data wirelessly collected from deployed smart-bins.

3. Increase public recycling accessibility and encourage recycling by creating a mobile device application that facilitates locating a public recycling bin to deposit a recyclable container or paper.

The research and technology proposed here is very different from the Dream Machine (by Pepsico) concept.  This research proposes more flexible, less expensive and customizable (to produce, install and operate) smart bins that will include eco-feedback technology. Instead of a single bin that is the same nationwide, the proposed bin can be made from a current bin that is used at any public location (a bin that the public already recognizes). This means that any solid waste management structure (from collection through disposal), public or private, and any entity can utilize the proposed technology.  In addition, this research proposes to encourage and facilitate recycling (using any type of bin) through a mobile application.  The nature of this research is very practical and applied, so that a new product would be created and released at the end of the project to immediately impact the solid waste industry and the public it serves.