A paper, submitted by the two IRL employees Pascal Lessel and Maximilian Altmeyer, received an Honorable Mention Award at this year's CHI, the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, on of the most important and well respected conferences on Human-Computer-Interaction wordwide. The award marks the paper, titled „Analysis of Recycling Capabilities of Individuals and Crowds to Encourage and Educate People to Separate Their Garbage Playfully“, as one of the best submitted papers of this year's conference in Seoul, South Korea.
The paper is based on Maximilian Altmeyer's bachelor thesis in Media Informatics and describes the development of a system for crowd-based and playful recycling.
Public garbage bins often seperate and presort garbage into different categories, such as plastics, paper or glas. Users have to choose one of the bins every time the want to throw someting away. Oftentimes this is a fairly easy choice but some objects are more difficult to categorize. The system developed at the IRL aims to help and educate people on correct waste seperation. It consists of an instrumented garbage bin and a smartphone game which lets the players (the crowd) manage their own waste management company. When a real world user throws something into the instrumented garbage bin, the system snaps a picture of the new item and sends it to the players who have to decide how to recycle this item. The results are matched with the real word user's decision and the users and players receive points their decision was correct. Otherwise they receive information on how to recycle their garbage correctly and what impact their wrong decision has on the environment (such as CO2 emission). The system tries to create two major effects: firstly, it should create a learning effect resulting in less non-recycleable garbage and secondly, it should raise awareness for the large amounts of garbage produced every day and the necessity of recycling systems for the environment.
A first test run at the dining hall of the Saarland University was successful. Additional surveys showed that the crowd was less likely to throw garbage into the wrong containers than the single users. Furthermore some learning effects could be detected, resulting in less errors over time. Users criticized the long time they had to wait for feedback from the crowd which can be minimized in different ways, for example using push notifications to the user's smartphone.
But education and raising awareness for the environment are only part of the goals of the system. It primarily aims at the protection and conservation of natural ressources through waste prevention and higher recycling quotas, and therefore contributes to the important goal of the conservation of the environment.