It can be difficult for up and comers to break into a market, unless their business model is based on a brilliant idea. That’s precisely how environmental startup Consciously Aware secured a £10,000 research and development grant from leading UX agency Creative Navy. The two founders, Matteo Colledan and Léon Piclet, pitched the concept for an app that would reduce the contamination of recyclables.
The recycling process is particularly vulnerable to human error because it requires participants to have extensive knowledge regarding what is and what isn’t allowed. Sick of seeing entire trucks of recyclables being sent to the landfill, Consciously Aware decided that something needed to be done. What better way to reach every household in Britain than through a mobile app?
In order to create a digital product that would have a major positive impact, the startup teamed up with Creative Navy to conduct the preliminary research. This helped Piclet and Colledan determine a framework that encourages users to improve their recycling habits and supports them as they follow their improvement plan.
Contamination is the biggest threat to the economic stability of the recycling industry. Putting an item in the wrong bin can ruin the recycling efforts of your entire neighbourhood. Recyclables that require further sorting translate into increased risk for the employees handling them and additional expenses for the recycling company. It only takes one piece of brightly coloured paper to ruin an entire batch that would have otherwise been profitable.
Because of the recycling process’s complexity and the many stakeholders involved, the regular householder needs an easily accessible and reliable support system. Colledan said that technology is the best way to bridge the gap between experts and regular people. He hopes that the app will be popular so that their users can demand more sustainable options from those in power, be they big retailers or the local government.
Consciously Aware has a tremendous challenge ahead of them: how will they find the perfect balance between information scarcity and information overload? People often contaminate because they don’t know enough about what goes where.On the other hand, readily-available comprehensive resources aren’t the answer. Recycling companies have found that if their educational materials are too extensive, people come to believe that recycling is difficult and don’t even bother doing it.
In order to be able to live up to its true potential, the app needed to go beyond offering general advice. Piclet said that he wanted to make people believe that their individual actions can have a significant positive impact on the environment and the community. This is why their design of the app includes real-time personalized updates for users, which help them understand their recycling habits and how they can improve them.
The app will also be capable of calculating the contamination levels of any bag or bin. This feature could prove useful for the employees charged with the collection of recyclables, as it would help them make a quick assessment regarding whether the contents of a trash can are actually viable or not. Even if they’re not the target user group, we hope that this development process will take their needs into consideration as well, even if in a separate project in the future.
Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the future of humanity. Through their UX design idea, Colledan and Piclet hope to popularize and facilitate green choices. They’re trying to do their part in the reduction of contamination rates, and wish to help recycling companies eliminate such occurrences altogether. Their app will offer people all the tools they need to be the best version of themselves and become proficient recyclers.
Creative Navy’s grant program is designed to help startups like Consciously Aware apply digital technology to solve the wicked problems of our time. Dennis Lenard, CEO, was thrilled to offer a pair of bright, young minds the opportunity to begin working on materializing their idea. He believes that great design can help humanity reach its full potential.
Lenard is disappointed by the waning numbers of investors still eager to direct their funds towards innovation. He hopes that people will come to understand that innovators require a lot of freedom in order to be able to explore the potential and limitations of their ideas. Soon enough, seed investors will reach out to Consciously Aware and help them mature their product.