Recyclemania — become a recycling hero!

The story of my prototype.

Everything started with the capstone project for the Interaction Design course on, and the topic of change. My classmates and I were asked to think of a situation and an idea that would make a change. My designer brain started to rotate and because I was already thinking of it a lot in the last months, I decided to deal with the topic recycling, waste production, and environmental change. The question I asked myself was:

How can I make recycling more attractive and eventually fun for people? — Maybe through a device?

The observation:
To get a clue about people’ behaviors I needed to learn how people decide do recycle trash in their daily life. I started to observe how people dispose of their trash. I wanted to see how they do it, why and why not and how they feel about it. After three in-person observations, I could get a little impression about habits, knowledge, and problems.

People don’t want to spend much time with recycling. They often throw recyclable things in the trash that will go to a landfill because they don’t want to think about it.

A survey from the year 2011, conducted by IPSOS ( about this topic gives great insight for those who want to know more. This very interesting survey deals with similar questions I have asked my participants: How do people (in the US) feel about recycling? Why do they and why do they not recycle? What are constraints and habits? And when do they struggle? Follow this link to see the whole information of the survey:

The answer:
We know and see the benefits of recycling. It reduces landfills, saves trees and conserves energy. Though many know this, there are some barriers that prevent us from recycling more. Top reasons are that it might not be accessible, that it is time-consuming and people often forget or they have a lack of knowledge.

People need …
In the next step I distilled the five main user need:

  1. People need fast and easy information about what is recyclable so they don’t loose much time with that.
  2. People need a reward for doing recycling when they come to a disposal area.
  3. Most people are confused and need to understand clearer how to recycle right by giving them fast access to the information.
  4. Often people need to be reminded to deal with their own trash by showing them.
  5. People need a way to get an inspiration to reuse and avoid trash and get more aware of the effect of pollution.

In conclusion, and in my point of view, I understand that people are very aware of their impact on the environment when they recycle and reduce waste. But they easily forget about it because it is time-consuming. Sometimes they are confused how to do it right. Then they need to do some research on the internet.

People need more motivation, more information and more inspiration to recycle.

Motivation means, that people need to experience a personal achievement. Existing recycling APPs only deal with finding a close by recycling location. Some existing websites offer tons of information about recycling. My idea — an APP that would be more like a fun game but also educational.

First Paper Prototype:

First paper prototypes helped me to find the right functionality.

After the first paper prototype testing with a real person, I could give the application its basic functions and start to do a real wireframes with Sketch.

Recyclemania Prototype 1.0 wireframes with Sketch
And here a name was born: “Recyclemania”

The Recycling APP has two main actions: Learn, or Challenge. Those main functions stay always the same but the content changes through different levels! But for this prototype I used only one challenge situation and one quiz question to give people a first impression of the basics.

User testing helped me to trigger problems of the prototype and helped me improve it.

The Design
While dealing with functionality the design came to short. I wasn’t very happy with the current look of the prototype. After making sure that the functionality is clear to the user, I started to making a nicer visual experience. I wanted to give the APP a more structure but wanted to avoid too many images because the content itself should be easy to absorb.

The new design concept:

Recyclemania frames

Design and creation is a process and I sill want to work on the prototype to make it more detailed and fill it with content.
For now you can watch this little introduction video I made.

Have fun …

My prototype presentation on vimeo.

This project was a real good experience for me. I hope to work on more details and content in the future. People who are interested in this concept and who want to join my mission, are welcome to jump on board. ;-)
Change happens in little steps!

Thank you for reading!

Special thanks to my peers from, who helped me through all the steps of creating, by doing evaluations and giving feedback, and to my family and friends who supported me with user testing. :)