Problem Statement

Every day every one person generates over 4 pounds of trash and around 1.5 tons of solid waste yearly. Further, Americans make more than 200 million tons of garbage every year. The EPA reports that 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable. However, Americans only recycle approximately 30% of it. According to the latest report from the environmental protection agency, the recycling rate of the USA is 34% while Germany’s rate is 62% and Austria’s rate is 63%, which are the highest recycling rate in the world. Even US. recycling rate has been increasing over years, there is more waste happening than ever.

When looking at the American cities, San Francisco is boasting the highest recycling rate – 80%. The city requires San Francisco residents and businesses to properly sort recyclables from compostables and keep them out of the trash to landfill and place them in the proper collection containers.

However, comparing to San Francisco and other cities, Boston is a low performer of recycling since fewer than 1 in 5 pieces of household waste gets recycled, less than in other large cities around the USA.

According to the SF organization, there are best practices San Francisco uses for implementing its zero waste strategy, such as a convenient, easy-to-use three bin system, extensive outreach and education to residents and businesses about recycling and composting. Also like Kent Portney (a professor in the department of political science at Tufts University who studies sustainability in cities) said, “in Boston it takes a lot more effort to push things over the hum”.

Therefore, in my opinion, a tool to educate and help people recycle more conveniently, as well as motivate more people to recycle, would be a good way to improve recycling rate and approach to zero waste in Boston.


  • Provide a new and more interesting device for Boston people to live a recycling life.
  • Offer an interactive way for users to make them feel comfortable to recycle or even play a recycling game with their friends and around their neighborhood.
  • Help users know more about recycling and how to categorize the trash they generate every day.
  • Help users build a good recycling habit through their daily life.
  • Assist raising the recycling rate of Boston.


In order to help increasing the recycling rate and provide Bostonia a more sustainable living way, I plan to design a mobile app because nearly two-thirds of Americans are owning smartphones nowadays. Every smartphone users have at least 7 social/communication apps on their phones nowadays because smartphones have become an important tool for people in their life. Therefore, the mobile app format will be a better and proper format for my project to assist my goal to provide people more knowledge and attractive methods to make their life more sustainable and environmentally friendly.


Since recycling is a responsibility for everybody, the target users of my mobile app can be any resident.  Meanwhile, this app right now is just for Boston area because different places follows different recycling rules. Thus, the main target users will be all the residents in Boston area.

Feasibility Research

1. Lack of knowledge of recycling

People are confused about whether an item is recyclable or not. Half say that they just throw the items away while 18% report putting it in recycling bins. Especially in the case of electronics and the batteries, 44% people don’t know how or where to recycle old technology. The director of Cambridge also advocated that more public education of recycling is needed, as about one-quarter of the trash the city collects from residents is filled with cans and bottles that should be recycled. 

2. Similar app:

There are definitely some excited apps of recycling. Below are the most representative two apps.

1). Boston Trash Schedule & Alerts

Users are able to use this app to schedule their trash time and remind them. However, this app have seldom help users categorize their trash into recyclable and non-recyclable products.

In my app:

  • For non-recycling items, my app tells users how to deal with them.
  • For recyclable items, I provide ways to reclamation or the place to recycle.  
  • The DIY ways I provides will help users create new products by themselves, such as what to do with discarded/unavailable credit card, earphone, glasses/sunglasses.
  • Users are able to check and join recycling events via my app to enjoy their weekend with their families or friends.

2). iRecycle

With this app, indeed, users can categorized their trash.

In my app:

  • My app will provide a more interactive way for users to recycle or find more interests in recycling, such as competing recycling with their neighbors and friends as a game and getting a chance to win a reward while they raise their recycling level.
  • Comparing to iRecycle, my app not only provides the information about where to put the trash; more than that, I emphasize letting users think about how they can recreate products with their old stuffs firstly.


There will be FIVE main functions in the Re-Life app:

1. My Record, Checklist, Recycling Game, Reminder

There will be a reminder function in this app to warn users of recycling once a week. The reminder will be sent on the day before the trash collection day in users’ neighborhood. According to the zipcode users provide when they sign up, the app would know where are users’ neighborhood and which day is their trash pick-up day.

After being reminded, users are able to use the recycling checklist in the app to check what they have and go ahead to recycle their items. Meanwhile, the recycling list they finished will be recorded in their account every time as a credit to be counted in a recycling game. After users completes 20 recycling, they will be raised to a higher level, which will be ranked around their neighbors and friends. There also will be different rewards offering to people arrive different recycling levels.

Moreover, users can share their rank to their social media to invite more friends to play the recycling game with them.

2. Material Directory

The app will not only provide the information introducing different types of trash, story about what will happen after people recycle to let users know how they help with our earth; but also provide ways to help users deal with their trash. For example, if the item is belong to non-recyclable type, I provide the suggested places for them to throw. If the item is recyclable, we suggests ways for users to recycle. Or I provide DIY methods for users to learn how to reuse their items and create new products.

3. DIY / Upcycling

Users can check out multiple DIY ways based on what used items they have. There will be text tutorial detail and video to let users follow.

4. Events

Users are able to check recycling events happening in different months and invite friends to attend together.

5. Search

By accessing into my app, users can type in any item’s name to search what categories of trash the item belongs to and how they can deal with it, as well as a suggested DIY method for them to recreate their item.

Features and Scope

  1. Assist recycling problem.
  2. New entertainment tool related to recycle.
  3. Encourage users to be more environmentally friendly.
  4. Help interacting people with environment, letting them keep tracking what they complete for the earth.

Technology Support

  1. Wireframe & Prototype

I used to wireframe both website and mobile app in my past classes by mockup tool, such as Balsamiq Mockups, Moqups and Axure. I would like to use them to finish my wireframe and prototype. For interactive prototype, I used InVision to build up a clickable interface to be able to let users test my app on it.

  1.  UX aspect

I have successfully completed several mobile design projects during this program. I believe I have enough UX concept and experience to make the app more user-friendly. Also, I have enough knowledge about the process of UX design through persona, scenario, wireframe, user testing and prototype.

  1. Visual Design

I always have good sense about aesthetics of an app, like icons, colors, fonts and other elements. Also, I’m good at Photoshop and Illustrator. I believe I will be able to make the UI more attractive and noticeable.


  • There hasn’t been similar entertained recycling app before.
  • Recycling has become an important topic for human beings’ life.
  • More and more people start using smartphone and be interested in funny apps.
  • Recycling is significant anywhere in our world. So this app can be expended to different places in the future to help residents in any area to make their neighborhoods environmental-friendly, especially those countries where the environmental problems are serious.
  • There will be a lot of other possible features that can be added inside the app to make this tool more interactive and helpful to motivate more people to take care of their environment, such as artificial intelligent and virtual reality to be plugged in the app.