RecyclAR mission:

We empower students with the knowledge necessary to confront ignorant and irresponsible recycling habits in order to improve the efficacy of recycling in the United States.

General information:

RecyclAR employs image recognition and targeting in order to reveal the correct recyclability of different products so that students can learn how to adequately dispose of various items. Typical classroom demonstrations will include a plastic soda bottle, a pizza box, and plastic utensils. These items are deceptively nuanced in their respective degrees of recyclability. The plastic bottle is only recyclable if it is completely empty of fluid, and given a light rinse to rid it of any sticky residue. The parts of the pizza box that are free of grease are recyclable, but any cardboard that contains grease or cheese is rendered unfit to be recycled and must be torn off and disposed of as landfill waste. Contrary to popular belief, plastic utensils are never recyclable, as they are considered to be “end of life plastics” with no ability to be further recycled.

Elevator Pitch:

RecyclAR is a necessary addition to the informational curriculum given to elementary students across America. It was found that 63% of respondents worry that a lack of knowledge is causing them to recycle incorrectly. This was corroborated by the same respondents struggling when quizzed on whether various items were recyclable. RecyclAR aims to combat the harmful effects of the ignorance of the American public by informing elementary aged school children on how to correctly recycle by utilizing an immersive AR experience.

Intended Audience:

Targeting students as our primary audience is important because it allows for our message to be more effectively received. Younger people have a more malleable mindset given that they have not lived long enough to fully settle into their own rigid lifestyles. This means that attempting to intervene earlier in a person’s life creates the possibility of correcting any mistakes they could be making before they become permanent, unfixable habits.

Demographic:

Our targeted demographic is solely distinguished by age. This target is supported by the gradation in recycling behaviors across different generations, with older generations holding themselves accountable for responsibly recycling significantly more than younger ones. In a poll from May 2021, two thirds of Gen Z respondents (those born from 1997 to 2012) blame barriers to recycling, including confusion over what items can be recycled, a shortage of recycling bins and lack of clear disposal instructions on products whereas only 41% of those over age 55 see such obstacles. This establishes the importance in addressing younger generations given that they are disproportionately more confused on correct recycling habits.

Inspiration

In a larger effort to produce something that would tangibly improve environmental initiatives in the United States, our team recognized the value-action gap which poses the largest obstacle in environmental action. Although a high percentage (77%) of surveyed Americans report wanting to learn how to live more sustainably, only a fraction actually commit themselves to making any considerable change. If a lifestyle change is too inconvenient or uncomfortable, it is evident that Americans simply won’t make the change. This is especially the case for drastic dietary changes, like committing to a plant based diet, or even more severe commitments, like adopting a completely zero-waste lifestyle. Both would be greatly beneficial to the environment, but the opportunity cost is too high for most Americans to actually follow through with. This is where recycling came to light as the most feasible change that Americans could make. Although it is still a slightly burdensome task, responsible recycling is a much more attainable change to make, especially considering that most Americans already make an attempt at recycling! The problem then lies in correcting the many misconceptions and misunderstandings Americans have about what and what not to recycle. Many Americans unknowingly partake in “wish-cycling,” which is recycling an item that they're unsure about its recyclability in the hopes of it being recycled as opposed to being dumped in a landfill. However, this optimistic attempt can be seen to be unintentionally harmful in that it increases the time, cost, and labor required to complete proper sorting of recyclables. Additionally, many Americans attempt to recycle items that are deemed “recyclable,” but fail to take the extra steps necessary to make that item in a condition acceptable to recycle. Because of this, our team found it necessary to address such instances of ignorance by creating a product that would educate students on how to properly recycle.

What it does

RecyclAR will be incorporated into a larger environmental awareness educational curriculum to be demonstrated for elementary aged students in order to improve their recycling habits. Educators will firstly request a personalized demonstration for their classes by filling out a short form on our website. Once the contact information and preferred items for demonstration are submitted, a QR code will be generated for their classroom to use. The educator will be responsible for providing the physical items to be scanned for classroom use. They will ask their students whether or not they think each item can be recycled. The students will then scan the QR code, leading them to our webAR experience. They will use RecyclAR to scan each item to reveal the recyclability of each item. RecyclAR will overlay a colored field that determines which parts of each item are recyclable or not, with a red overlaid coloration meaning an unrecyclable component and green meaning a recyclable component. For example, a plastic bottle that is empty and clean will be overlaid with a completely green coloration, deeming it an appropriate item to be recycled. A plastic utensil will be overlaid with a completely red coloration, deeming it an unacceptable item to be recycled. A pizza box would be colored red on greasy or contaminated parts of the cardboard and green on the remaining clean cardboard, meaning that the contaminated portions must be torn off or removed in order to become completely green and therefore appropriate to be recycled. Through this experience in learning about what can be recycled and how to manipulate certain items in order to allow them to be recycled, students will reduce the ignorance they have for recycling, and hopefully become more responsible in how they handle waste.

How we built it We started with text using basic HTML, using style elements to design formats, such as text, background, color, and positioning. We used HTML buttons to move between different pages and ensure the right answer choice is being selected. We used functions in JavaScript to make the buttons functional so that users can turn between different pages using the display. We also implemented API’s to take a real-time picture, put it on a temporary file, send it to Bing’s reverse image search engine, and return accurate classification of the scanned item’s composition as either recyclable or non recyclable. The reverse search is conducted to find keywords to use for classifying what kind of waste the scanned item is. From 8th Wall’s repertoire, we used GLB optimization for the 3D model of our dinosaur mascot. We used A-Frames entity element to position and format the dinosaur model.

Challenges we ran into

Time was the most obvious challenge that greatly limited the scope of our product. Another difficulty we had was finding the balance between a product that was engaging and a product that was effective. Although there is much more helpful and educational information that could have been provided in a long block of text, the likelihood of a child actually reading the entirety of such is slim to none. On the other hand, there could be much more stimulation in a more artistic or game-like activity with minimal informative components, but this would negate our entire purpose of trying to make some kind of a difference in reducing ignorance. This wrestling with what would best engage students while also staying true to our larger mission eventually led us to land on our current conception of RecyclAR: a quiz like activity that engages students by appealing to the natural gratification they get from correctly answering a question while also incorporating informational elements to help address and rectify those most common recycling misconceptions.

How it works

--------Image Recognition Made Simple RecyclAR employs image recognition technology to identify different materials and inform students about their correct disposal, simplifying recycling for elementary school kids.

--------Interactive AR Experience Through an immersive AR experience, RecyclAR engages students in a fun and interactive way, encouraging them to learn more about recycling and the impact it has on the environment.

--------Real-world Examples RecyclAR showcases real-world examples of commonly recycled items, such as plastic soda bottles, pizza boxes, and plastic utensils, to teach students about their proper disposal and recycling.

--------Learning Made Fun RecyclAR makes learning about recycling fun and engaging, with interactive quizzes and challenges that allow students to test their knowledge and reinforce their understanding of proper recycling habits.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We were proud of our perseverance in creating a product for our desired target issue of improving recycling in the United States. It went through many evolutions, especially in target audience

What we learned

We learned about various features that 8th Wall offers and how to implement them in order to create a webAR experience. We learned about image tracking and designing while accounting for 3D and moveable elements. We became more comfortable with HTML and JavaScript. We also learned how to animate models and how to work with files and various assets.

What's next for RecyclAR

More extensive image tracking that relies on larger data sets would be implemented so that more accurate results can be produced. We could also add a feature that allows users to track their recycling progress over time, or provide personalized recommendations for reducing waste. We could also expand into e-waste, which is another commonly misconceived area of waste management. Another possible addition could be making the dinosaur customizable which would increase interactivity and engagement. We also could implement 8th Wall’s raycaster to directly identify the item we’re scanning in order to help attach 3D text to it.

Briefly Describe Your Product:

RecyclAR is a webAR experience that uses image recognition and targeting to help students identify recyclable materials and learn how to properly dispose of them. Students can scan items using their device’s camera and receive instant feedback on whether the item is recyclable or not, as well as information on what specific parts on a recyclable item make it need to be removed in order to make it into a recyclable condition.

If we were to do this app again, what would we do differently:

If we were to do this app again, and have more time to complete it, we would have employed much more extensive animation features, including creating our own 3D model of our dinosaur mascot, Recyclasaur. This model could be capable of audio effects like roaring, and animations like running, crying, jumping, and the like. Such would be much more engaging for children, and make the dinosaur better resonate with their age group. We also could have implemented 3D text using 8th Wall’s image targeting so that the text moves with the picture in order to increase engagement and more immersively educate users.

Sources

Behm, Jon. All the U.S. Recycling Facts You Need to Know, Dumpsters. https://www.dumpsters.com/blog/us-recycling-statistics#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20ranks%20quite%20low,of%20waste%20each%20country%20recycles. DS Smith. “Older Generations Recycle Significantly More than Younger Ones.” Environment + Energy Leader, 18 Aug. 2022, https://www.environmentalleader.com/2022/08/older-generations-recycle-significantly-more-than-younger ones/#:~:text=A%20DS%20Smith%20survey%20in,and%20Gen%20X%20(58%25). Ellsmoor, James. “77% Of People Want to Learn How to Live More Sustainably.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 14 Apr. 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesellsmoor/2019/07/23/77-of-people-want-to-learn-how-to-live-more-sustainably/?sh=52b10c7f2b01. Tufano, Linda. “Why Most Americans Find Recycling Confusing.” Waste Dive, 22 Aug. 2015, https://www.wastedive.com/news/why-most-americans-find-recycling-confusing/404423/. Writer, Staff. “Older Generations Recycle Significantly More than Younger Ones.” Environment + Energy Leader, 18 Aug. 2022, https://www.environmentalleader.com/2022/08/older-generations-recycle-significantly-more-than-younger-ones/#:~:text=A%20DS%20Smith%20survey%20in,and%20Gen%20X%20(58%25). Waste360 Staff. “Covanta Survey: ‘Americans Don't Know How to Recycle.’” Waste360, 23 Apr. 2019, https://www.waste360.com/recycling/covanta-survey-americans-don-t-know-how-recycle.

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