Public/Resident Smartphone & Tablets for Managing Waste & Recycling Collections

Written by Integrated Skills

Nov 25, 2015

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There exist only a handful of local authority suppliers that provide smartphone and tablet apps for use by memsmartphonesbers of the public to manage their waste & recycling collections as well as report on environmental issues.
For local authorities the key in selecting a provider relates to the ability of the app to be “inclusive” ensuring that the app is available to all members of the public who wish to use it. The challenge for the supplier is to provide an app that works on a wide range of smartphones and tablets across the three main platforms – Android, Windows and iOS.
Who hasn’t got an app?
There are countless smartphones in the UK and far too many apps deployed to count! And Local authorities have been at the forefront of the ‘app revolution’ as a means of informing and communicating service information. That is not, however, the same as saying that the local authority app is the most used or makes it to the front screen of most people’s smartphones! A marketing expert may advise that a local authority app needs to be exciting or ‘alternative’ in an attempt to gain traction in the minds of app users whereas the more experienced local authority advisor would suggest that such apps are inherently utilitarian, used only when required and the main consideration is ‘keep it simple’.
App Functionality – Keeping it Simple, Sort Of
An app designed to inform and communicate data that relates to waste & recycling collections typically wants to impart three key pieces of information:

  • When is the container (bin) or bag scheduled for collection and which one (residual, recycling, food, etc)?
  • Into which container does which waste type go?
  • Is there a change or disruption to the service?

The functionality dictates the way in which the app is designed in terms of technical architecture as well as user acceptance. As one of the key objectives of such apps is to inform users of service disruption these apps typically interface with Waste Management Systems that monitor the waste & recycling operation as well as the contact details of residents.
Apps also afford local authorities with an excellent route to monitor directly the behaviour of the public by analysing the nature of the app usage, that is, which screens are accessed most, when and, most importantly, is there a correlation between app usage with reductions in ‘missed bin’ calls and contamination of recycling.
The Cost of ‘Missed Bins’ and Recycling Contamination
One of the key objective when deploying such apps is go provide the resident with all the data the need to make informed decisions: When should I out the bin out, into which bin should I place this plastic bottle, has the Christmas holidays alters the collection schedule?
Why does this matter? The uninitiated won’t realise the cost implication of sending a 16 tonne waste truck back along a route go collect a missed bin; suffice it to say that a truck that shifts at just 4 miles to the gallon pumping out copious amounts of CO2 is not an efficient means of emptying bins that, for whatever reason, were not collected on the first run. Likewise, recyclates incorrectly collected at kerbside can lead to contamination further down the process chain resulting in a tonne of landfill waste rather than a tonne of recycled plastic.
Apps as a Means of Reducing Communication Costs
Not only is there the cost of ‘missed bins’ to consider but there is also the cost of communication. The majority of local authorities in the UK still inform local residents of service disruption and service day changes by SMS text. Even with discounts applied for high volume usage, the cost per text is extremely high compared to the price per message sent to an app. Local authorities are still spending too much tax payer money on sending text alerts: The Return on Investment for waste & recycling apps can be as quick as 4 weeks!

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