Waste Watchers: Reframing Recycling

My Role: UX Designer| Duration: 14 days| Project Status: Ongoing

❗️This is a student concept project for the General Assembly UX Design Immersive.

Project Overview

Sorting of garbage in New York City has been mandated since 1989 and awareness of recycling is widespread among its residents, however the city currently recycles only about 17% of its total waste — half of the potential of the current program.

The UX team set out to understand the current landscape of recycling in the city and learn more about how New Yorkers interact with the recycling system, how much they know about it, and how they feel about the efficacy and ease of recycling in general. Using these insights, the team developed a responsive web platform that would encourage eco-friendly actions.

UX Process

Our team followed the Double Diamond UX Design framework in order to understand the problem space and develop our solution. The Double Diamond consists of four phases know as the four D’s. During the first phase, Discover, research is conducted to gather information about the problem space. In the second phase, Define, research data is synthesized and the Problem Statement further defined. Moving forward into the Design phase, solutions are ideated, tested, and iterated on before moving on to the final phase, Deliver.

User Research

In order to identify members of our target audience, the UX team developed a Screener Survey to recruit qualified participants for user interviews. The survey focused on screening in the New York City metro area residents with access to recycling pickup at their residence, and capturing their baseline recycling habits, knowledge and attitudes.

Having screened in qualified participants, the UX team conducted five user interviews to gather qualitative data about recycling system user’s goals, needs and pain points. A standardized interview guide focusing on open-ended questions was used with each interview participant. Qualitative data was then synthesized through affinity mapping to identify trends across interviewees and extract insights. Key insights included that participants wanted to know that their recycling habits were creating an impact, that others in the community were recycling, and were interested in the potential outputs of recycling. A strong preference for clear messaging and labeling to avoid confusion — and make recycling more accessible and fun — was also apparent.

Affinity Map and I-statements

Once themes were established through the infinity mapping process, ‘i-statements’ were developed to describe each theme in the voice of the user. These ‘i-statements’ in turn informed the user insights that were the output of the infinity mapping process.


  • Metro residents feel motivated when other members of their community and social circles engage in recycling.
  • Metro residents prefer when recycling is clearly marked and sorted.
  • Metro residents would like to know that their efforts have an impact.
  • Metro residents are inspired by the possibilities of upcycling.
  • Metro residents are unclear on what can and can’t be recycled.
  • Metro residents think biodegradable materials are important to reducing waste.

Meet Dakota!

After establishing our key insights, we were able to develop our persona. We did this so that we can have a clear understanding of and empathy for our target audience. Dakota wants to recycle and be engaged in his community. He wants to inspire others to recycle, but is uncertain as to whether recycling is actually making a difference in the world. This helps us to focus on the bigger problem at hand.

Revised Problem Statement

Despite the general awareness of recycling as a practice, the actual process and outcomes of recycling remain opaque to the general public.

As a result, Dakota is often unsure how to recycle properly and if his efforts are having an impact.

How might we incentivize New Yorkers to be more engaged in recycling?

Design Studio

The UX team led a Design Studio with a team of developers to collaborate on designs for a responsive web platform that could help Dakota. The goal was to ideate on designs and prioritize features to create an Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Together, the UX team and Software Engineers prioritized MVP feature by using a MoSCoW chart and Feature Prioritization Matrix.

MoSCoW Chart for feature prioritization
Product Sketches from Design Studio

MVP Feature List:

  • Account creation, update, delete
  • Sign in
  • About us
  • Personal goal tracker
  • Share to social media
  • Recycling Tracker
  • Terms of Service/Privacy
  • Recycling Information
  • Metrics Page
  • Hamburger navigation

Introducing Waste Watchers!

Waste Watchers Logo

Waste Watchers helps people learn about recycling and see the direct impact of their actions.

For every item recycled, members earn points towards having trees planted in their name — doubling their contribution to the environment!

With the MVP feature list in hand, and input from across the teams, the UX team was able to converge on a design for a mid-fidelity prototype for Waste Watchers.

Usability Testing

Usability testing was conducted on the mid-fidelity prototype in order to assess the functionality of the mobile website design. Testing at this stage of design was used to gather early user feedback and iterate before moving forward to hi-fidelity.

Usability testing involved five participants and was conducted over Zoom, Slack and Google Hangouts. In each test, the participants received the prototype file at the commencement of testing and were walked through a standard scenario involving four tasks. Direct success, indirect success and failure rates were recorded for each task and each participant. The UX team also recorded time on task and any comments or behaviors exhibited by the participants. Following the test, participants were asked to rate the easiness of the task and give feedback on the site and their overall experience.

Key Insights

  • Direct navigation needs to be better incorporated
  • Establish familiar patterns to set expectations
  • Add more page value to features


  • Create account page when clicking profile/user icon
  • Pages should be more clear on what the purpose is
  • Change name of feature pages to avoid confusion. Ex: Metrics Page

Task Analysis: Task 4

Task Scenario:

Task: Sign out of your account

Directness: 50% 5/5 users

Average Task Completion Time: 14.4 seconds

Task Analysis: Task 4 was an indirect success path for all five testing participants. In all five cases, the participants initially clicked on the profile icon to sign out — as this had been the route to sign in.

Severity: Minor

Recommendation: Move sign out to the account menu, clickable from the profile icon.

High-fidelity Mobile Prototype

Try out the Waste Watchers mobile prototype here!

User Testing: High-fidelity Mobile Prototype

A second round of usability testing was conducted on the hi-fidelity prototype to understand the intuitiveness of the mobile web design. Its purpose was to ensure that previous changes were appropriately addressed from the mid fi usability testing and adjusted correctly into the hi fidelity model. Feedback from this round was highly valuable in moving forward with finishing touches to our final product.

Key Insights

  • Changes made to profile icon and the inclusion of a ‘Submit’ button included direct path success
  • Usability testing for mobile on a desktop is unintuitive for scrolling action
  • Users enjoy the experience more when there are additional ways to navigate


  • Additional round of usability testing on mobile to test scroll function and how it influences path completion
  • Automatic navigation to additional pages would be more convenient

High-fidelity Desktop Prototype

Try out the Waste Watchers desktop prototype here!

As Waste Watchers is a responsive website, the UX team also created a desktop prototype in high-fidelity.

Recommendations and Next Steps

For next steps the UX team recommends developing additional site interactions, refining and further developing the style guide, and conducting another round of usability testing in a fully mobile environment. We also recommend conducting usability testing on the desktop prototype before handing over the design file to development for build out.




UX Designer in NYC

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Designer Spotlight: Denzel Boyd

Designer Spotlight: Denzel Boyd

What are UI and UX even?

The Importance of Design

Designers, please stop presenting your work with rounded corners

How to find the motivation to improve your home

ePub Conversion Services for iPad Devices

“Dawna Jones”- A Ux Case Study

A List of User Experience Goals That UX Designers Should Set

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Odelia Hoey

Odelia Hoey

UX Designer in NYC

More from Medium

Understanding Deceptive Patterns in UX Design

Common mistakes during a usability test (and how to avoid them)

Demystifying UX Design

UX Research: Get Crafty-Learning Craft & Art App