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Easy Recycle

Simplify the recycling of unusual materials via mobile drop-off centers

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While sharing a concern about environmental sustainability, we started off working on designing a solution to make it easier for the general public to recycle in their daily life.

The Easy Recycle mobile drop-off center provides an easier, educational, and joyful social experience for neighbors and communities who don’t have a convenient way to visit drop off centers to recycle unusual wastes.


Wei Cheng

Rodrigo Leal

​Yuqing Chen


Feb 2019 - May 2019


UX Research

Service Design



How to deal with these unusual waste?

One of our team members Wei has a recycling box including items she knows which can be recycled but she didn't know how to deal with them. The same situation happened to many other people.


We started to think, "Why is recycling unusual waste difficult to people?"


Problem Framing

Problem Framing

What made recycling unusual waste difficult?

Lack of knowledge

People don’t know how to properly dispose of unusual waste.

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Inconvenient transport
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Recycling centers in the city are not very accessible unless you have time and a car.

People don’t always want to commit time to deal with waste.

Lack of time commitment
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Problem Deep Dive

Properly disposing of the unusual waste is difficult.


They cannot be properly disposed of at home and
must instead be taken to drop-off locations, and people do not do that.


They do not want to put in the time and effort to do that.


Drop-off locations can often be far, and it is much easier to simply throw things in the trash.


People do not understand recycling’s benefits and wastes' influences.

Problem Reframe
How might we make it easier to recycle unusual waste and improve people’s awareness of recycling?


Field visit and subject matter expert interview

We visited the only governmental drop-off center at Austin -- Austin Recycling Recovery and a private drop-off center Green Guy Recycling to learn about the operation of recycling facilities and interview experts to learn from their perspective.

Key Takeaways
It is hard but necessary to change the culture
  • Start with small steps to Influence people, “Start locally, think globally.”

  • Applied different strategies to each community

Improving infrastructure is a big need
  • Austin Resources Recycling has limited space capability to handle large quantities of people, but they have a very limited budget

  • Space is confusing to navigate.

  • The current location is not very convenient for many residents

A need to improve educational resources
  • Improve outreach and advertising for recycling information

  • Contamination in recyclable materials made recycling harder

Interrupt and Contextual interview

We interviewed people coming to the drop-off centers during our field visit and went to more people's places to learn their recycling habits, perspectives, and knowledge.

What people said...

Putting them in the corner is easier than dropping off at the recycling center.
But it’s annoying. I think they’ll be there forever...


I know I should recycle...but I don’t know how can I do it here, and also I didn’t look it up.


My roommates don’t recycle, so I stopped to recycle here.


Someone should let us know to deal with them, I do not want to research it.

Their journey
Synthesis and Sense-making

We mapped out the information we got from the interviews and synthesized them to find patterns.

When people are confused about recycling, they do not ask for help and ignore it.

Recycling habits influenced by schedule and personal living habits.

People think their impact is negligible.

Most people consider proper recycling time-consuming.

Drop-off centers are used exclusively by those who have cares

Some people have a habit of resuing wastes.

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Active and direct recycling guides reduce people's effort.

Tangible, explicit evidence of damage to the environment motivate people to take action.

People tend to change their recycling habits to match other people around them.

People find traveling to drop-off centers inconvenient.

Key Insights
The inconvenience of Drop Off Center

People find going to drop-off centers inconvenient and do not tend to commit time and effort.

Needs for Educational Information

When people are confused about recycling, they don’t tend to look up information, instead, ignoring their problems.

Social Impact of Recycling is Significant

People tend to change their recycling habits to match people around them.



According to our research results, we came up with various "How might we..." statements to explore different perspective for approaching the problem, and brainstorm ideas based on them.


We decided to pursue the approach "How might we provide an easier, educational, and joyful social experience for people in neighbors and communities who don’t have a convenient way to visit drop off centers?" because it is feasible and human-centric.

Design Goal

How might we provide an easy, educational, and joyful social experience for people in communities who don’t have a convenient way to visit drop off centers?

We came up with some ideas during brainstorming process.


Display Images on Trash/Recycle Bins

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Mobile Drop-off Centers

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Eco-focused Social Network Platform

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Paid+locked Recycling Bins

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Display Images on Trash/Recycle Bins

After discussing these ideas, evaluating the pros and cons of each, we decided to pursue the idea of mobile drop-off centers due to it is feasible, user-centered, and capable of solving the problems we identified. ​

Prototyping and Iterating


We prototyped twice to test if the mobile drop-off center can achieve our design goal. This helped us gain feedbacks from people and iterate our design.

Prototype version 1
Prototype version 2