WeRecycle Android App for easier recycling in public spaces

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The Sustainability Problem

Encouraging recycling in outdoor public places is challenging because oftentimes it is inconvenient. Unlike indoor recycling in a home, an office or school where you are familiar with where the recycling bins are and they are relatively close to where you are, public spaces such as parks have wider spaces. You do not always know where the next recycling bin is. If you finish a bottle of water in the middle of the park and you do not know when you will encounter the next bin, will you hold on to it until you see the next bin or will you just toss it in the next bin you find – whether it is trash bin or a recycling bin? Chances are, many people will toss it in a trash bin if that is the more convenient choice.

The Technology

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WeRecycle at the University of Georgia studies the recycling behavior of people in public spaces by tracking the  number of bottles thrown at each bin. As a result of this study, they ave released an Android App that allows users to easily find out where the next recycling bins are, even offering them the option of identifying bins for paper, plastic, bottles or trash.

It facilitates communication among a community of recyclers, allowing users of the app to add bins on the map, including descriptions.

Lastly, if there are any areas where users feel are in need of bins, they can express a need for a public bin to be placed there. This data can then be easily used by government agencies to make their future plans.

The app currently enjoys are 4.2 out of 5 stars rating on app marketplace.


The Stakeholders

  • University of Georgia
  • The foundations funding the University of Georgia research
  • Users of the Android App
  • Waste management agencies in the Georgia area
  • The general public in Georgia
  • Recycling promoters and environmental nonprofits

The Process

  • Get University of Georgia students to make the initial maps of bins in certain high traffic public areas
  • Test the app in Georgia to determine strengths and weaknesses
  • Address bugs in the app
  • Share data with government agencies to see how they can leverage the data
  • Test new iterations of the app until it achieves success
  • Expand the app’s coverage beyond Georgia, possibly testing one city at a time





Anti-waste lining for plastic packaging



Sustainability Problem

A lot of product waste is caused by inefficient packaging that track the product in the container. Not only is this a waste for the user because they don’t get to use every ounce of product they paid for, it is also causing complications for recycling. Plastic containers need to be cleaned and rinsed before they can be recycled. For many, cleaning the container is an inconvenience that needs to be done. But unfortunately others find it a hassle and it deters them from recycling.

Technology Solution

Researchers at Ohio State University created a special lining texture for the inside of plastic bottles that ensure soapy liquids do not cling to the surface. While this technology already exists to effectively make food and drinks not stick, no one has developed a surface that works for soapy liquids.

How the technology works:

This anti-waste texture is the result of a technique that includes lining a plastic bottle with microscopic y-shaped structures that cradle the droplets of soap aloft above tiny air pockets, so that the soap never actually touches the inside of the bottle.

The “y” structures are built up using tiny silica nanoparticles, or quartz, which, when treated further, won’t stick to soap.

This is all to do with what is known as ‘surface tension’, which is the tendency of the molecules of a substance to stick to each other. Ketchup and other sauces are made mostly of water, and water molecules tend to stick to each other more than they stick to plastic. Conversely, soap needs organic molecules called surfactants and which do the opposite of water molecules, that is, they have a very low surface tension and stick to plastic easily.

Instead of spreading out on the surface of the plastic and sticking to it, the soap forms beads and rolls off the bottle.


  • Soap and similar product manufacturers
  • Plastic bottle suppliers
  • Recycling companies
  • Consumers

Steps to Implementation

  • Pilot test the technology with a handful of soap manufacturers
  • Market research to study consumer feedback about the new plastic containers
  • Make product adjustments as needed
  • Scale up use to as many soap and similar product manufacturers
  • Conduct awareness campaigns to encourage smart product use (down to the last drop) and boost plastic recycling






Public urinal generates electricity from urine


The Sustainability Problem:

The more we learn about the negative effects of fossil fuels, the more the world is looking to alternative and renewable sources of energy. New technology has been explored to create energy from various waste streams for many years now. Focus is on looking at waste readily available in particular locales and finding new uses for them, including energy generation.

The Technology Solution:

A new technology has figured out a way to create energy from human urine through the process of bacteria metabolism. By designing special urinals to capture the urine and introduce the bacteria, they are able to harness the energy. The Science News article explains the technology this way:

“The technology in the prototype is based on microbial fuel cells (MFC), which, like batteries, has an anode and a cathode,” explains Irene Merino, who is a researcher on the team thanks to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and works alongside another Spanish worker, Daniel Sánchez.

The cells are installed inside a container which collects the urine, currently only from male users due to the design of the urinals. Inside, bacteria colonise the anode electrode and act as a catalyst, decomposing the organic material in the pee.

This decomposition releases both protons, which travel from the anode to the cathode across a semipermeable membrane, and electrons, which travel through an external electrical circuit. To complete the cycle, an oxygen reduction reaction also takes place in the cathode. The process generates enough energy to power light bulbs or LED tubes.


  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (funding the research grant)
  • University of the West of England and the Spanish researchers (research university)
  • Urinal makers who will mass produce the technology
  • Glastonbury festival workers and attendees (where the prototypes are being tested)
  • Refugee camp workers and residents (where the tested prototypes will be installed for further testing)


  • Develop a set of prototypes to test at the Glastonbury festival to test mass use of the technology
  • Take learnings from the test at Glastonbury and create further improvements to the urinals
  • Deploy improved urinals in one refugee camp test site for a second testing of the new prototype
  • Create further improvements until the technology is ready to be deployed in a larger scale
  • Submit reports to Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to identify successes, possibly secure extra funding for next phase of the project



Solar Wallpaper

solar wallpaper

The Sustainability Problem

While solar panels have proven their effectiveness, many things about the way we makes solar panels today serve as barriers for use. One such problem is precisely that they have to come as panels made of non-flexible material and whose weight can add up once you place many panels onto a surface. As such, there are limited places where one could apply solar panels, and there is definitely a lot of concern around load bearing constructions.

The Technology

Sunflare, a company in China, developed a new solar surface that does not require panels. According to this article, they describe the new technology as:

Compared to traditional crystalline silicon solar panels, Sunflare solar panels are flexible because they do not use a glass substrate — rather, its substrate is a thin, high quality stainless steel. Likewise, Sunflare solar panels are lighter and thinner than traditional crystalline silicon because they are made of thinner layers of chemical elements and a lighter, stainless steel substrate.

“Our solar panels are easier to install because they don’t need a frame to support the panels,” said Gao. “In fact, the panels can be secured to any surface with a special double-sided tape.”

Given this development, there are now many new applications for the solar wallpaper, allowing a wider range of surfaces where they can be placed.


  • Other solar technology makers whose businesses may be affected
  • Current users of solar panels who may want to switch or complement their current systems
  • Current non-users of solar panels who found the cost or weight of panels too prohibitive but can use solar wallpaper
  • Environmental agencies and nonprofits


  • Create demo buildings for easiest uses of solar wallpaper (in factories, logistics centers, offices, etc.)
  • Create case studies for innovative uses of the solar wallpaper material (solar roads, solar bus stands, etc.)
  • Create payment plans that allow more people to afford the technology






DuraBook Technology: Books not made of trees


The Sustainability Problem

Paper production has been partially blamed for the depletion of our forests. The publishing industry is one of these industries that use paper heavily. Companies are now looking into ways to be more sustainable.

The Technology

DuraBook technology developed by Melcher Media is a synthetic paper not made of trees. The resulting paper made of plastic fibers is durable, recyclable and waterproof. In technical terms it is a “technical nutrient” or it can be re-used endlessly and upcycled.

The special paper was used to publish “Crade to Cradle”, a book about reimagining the way we produce things to consider the whole product lifecyle.


  • Publishing companies
  • Paper suppliers
  • Consumers
  • Recycling companies


  1. Cost analysis to ensure that books using this material will not result in very high price tags
  2. Inform / educate retailers and consumers about this new material and convince them of the benefits
  3. Educate recyclers about this material to ensure they know how to handle the material (don’t recycle it like regular paper)


Cradle to Cradle


This Book Is Not a Tree

Greywater recycling system for bathrooms



The Sustainability Problem:

In homes alone, toilets account for about 40% of the water used in the home. No numbers were cited for businesses but we know certain businesses also have a substantial number of toilets such as in hotels and event spaces. This can be seen as a waste of freshwater since the processes for which toilets use water does not necessitate freshwater.

The Technology Solution:

The AQUS Grey Water Toilet System is a water system that captures the dirty water from your sink (a.k.a. “grey water”) and recycles this to flush your toilet. According to the Inhabitat article, it can save up to 6,000 gallons of freshwater per year.


  • Home owners
  • Communities who share the same source of freshwater
  • Water utility companies / agencies
  • Contractors and other people whose work deals with building/designing bathrooms
  • Businesses that have a lot of bathrooms (event venues, hotels, etc.)


  • Sourcing the materials
  • Selection of contractors and crew for the rennovations
  • Assessment of existing structures to determine compatibility with new system
  • Timeline planning to ensure construction/renovation time does not conflict with other important events that may need access to the bathrooms
  • Monitoring actual renovations





Xerox Solid Ink








1. The Technology

The invention of solid ink was initially attributed to the company Tektronix in 1986. However, for this case study we will focus on Xerox Solid Ink which they have made available for use in offices. The solid ink works with a special printer, the ColoQube.

The white paper “Emerging Marking Technologies: A Review and Comparison of Xerographic and InkBased Imaging” (January 2008) describes the mechanism of the solid ink printing system as:

“Rather than using liquid ink, solid ink printers use ink sticks that are similar to crayons. During the imaging process, the ink is first melted quickly into liquid form and then jetted onto a transfer drum. The drum is then pressed against the media to transfer the image from the drum to the paper. The ink solidifies immediately upon contact with the substrate, which prevents ink smudging and smearing.”

Solid ink printing produces the same quality of prints at similar or faster speeds compared to  laserjet and inkjet printers. One advantage it has over inkjet printing is that it does not need the drying time for the ink after printing.
The Xerox website boasts of four awards on its product page for both the ink and the printer:

  • “Highly Recommended” rating from the Buyer’s Laboratory, Inc. for the Xerox ColorQube8700X printer (2012)
  • “Highly Recommended” rating from the Buyer’s Laboratory, Inc. for the Xerox ColorQube8900X printer (2012)
  • “Best Eco-friendly Ink Technology” award from BERTL (2011)
  • “5-star Exceptional Rating” ColorQube 9300 Series (2011)

2. The Sustainability Problem

The use of the ink comes with many benefits. The biggest sustainability problem it addresses is the need to reduce waste associated with office printing, specifically from the use of traditional ink cartridges and toners.
According to the product webpage, the solid ink delivers the same color print quality but produces 90% less waste compared to using laser color printers. This reduction in waste comes from the following features of the ink:

  • Solid ink does not need to be stored in individual cartridges
  • Consequently, the paper and plastic packaging associated with cartridges is also eliminated
  • Also as a result of this, less storage space is needed which can result in reduced waste associated with shipping and storing

Other than these direct benefits related to the sustainability problem of waste, the switch to a solid ink printing system also has secondary sustainability benefits:

  • Solid ink printers by Xerox has fewer moving parts, further waste elimination happens in two stages:
    • In the manufacturing stage, they use less raw materials
    • In the office-use phase, fewer parts breaking down means less use of replacement parts and throwing away of broken parts
  • The solid ink itself is environment friendly

3. and 4. Stakeholders and Implementation

Looking at internal stakeholders of a company considering a switch to solid ink printing systems, we see the following stakeholder groups and their concerns:
a) Finance Department
The finance department will be looking at the costs versus benefits of switching to this technology before they will give approval for the budgets.
While there may be an up-front cost to purchasing and installing the new printers, these secondary economic benefits can be used to convince a company to switch their office to the solid ink technology:

  • The use of solid ink allows you to print in color at the same price as black and white printing using inkjet or laserjet technology
  • Because the printers themselves are simpler and have fewer parts, they also come at a lower cost
  • Unlike laser or inkjet printers which can prefer a special kind of paper, solid ink performs well on any paper, thereby eliminating costs associated with specialty paper purchases
  • Compared to laser printers, Xerox solid ink printers can print at a similar speed or even faster, possibly increasing efficiency in the office

b) Employees who need to use the printer
After making the decision to switch, contracts with suppliers and and logistics of installing the hardware follows. Then, the next step is to look at the human component. The adaption of new technology will always cause some discomfort to some employees. Top of mind questions would be those relating to the quality of the printing, whether or not it is complicated to learn how to use the new technology, and if it will have any negative effects on their ability to perform their work / perform it at the same efficiency.
These need to be addressed through information dissemination and training so that they learn how to use it correctly and are assured that this technology will not negatively affect their work performance.

c) Corporate Sustainability / Corporate Social Responsibility Department
Monitoring of the implementation process and the results is an important step once the technology is in use. If the company currently has any corporate sustainability efforts and reporting in place, the sustainability department will want to monitor the progress of this technology switch and record data on how it has reduced the environmental impact of the office. This may be key data they want to include in their next sustainability report.

To read more about this technology, see the following links:

Xerox Solid Ink Product Page.http://www.office.xerox.com/solid-ink/enus.html#_overview, http://www.office.xerox.com/solid-ink/enus.html#_sustainability
White Paper: Emerging Marking Technologies: A Review and Comparison of Xerographic and InkBased Imaging (January 2008) http://www.office.xerox.com/latest/OPBWP-05U.pdf