Unwanted goods litter the streets and clutter our homes. These items may be broken, replaced by something better or no longer serving a useful purpose. But what if someone wanted to fix it? What if this is an upgrade for someone else? What if they need what this good offers? We want there to be a better way for people to make their unwanted goods visible. We want a better way for people to find things that serve a purpose for them. We want a better way to give goods a second life, and to shift the cultural norm of throwing away and buying new. We want Tinder for bins; Binder!
What it does
Binder is a platform that makes these unwanted goods visible to a digital network. Just by taking a photo, an owner of a good can share it with the world to see who wants it. Even if it isn't your goods you can still share it with the world; taking a photo of roadside hard rubbish on your morning walk will make it visible and clean up your street. On the flip side, Binder can alert you that something you want is near you. It can also be used to alert charities or organisations you support that there is something that may be of interest to them available. Effectively, Binder makes it easier for people to give a second life to unwanted goods.
How I built it
Binder is designed to be a familiar, Tinder-esque application for mobile devices. As well as the basics, it will include geolocation and image recognition (via a convolutional neural network) to capture the most useful information to feed into a match-making algorithm. As you may have picked up, Binder does not exist yet. However, given the presence of other apps that work use identical data inputs and processing methods it would be a formality.
Challenges I ran into
The profitability of this idea is hard to determine. There is no money involved in transactions, however this creates value for multiple parties.
Councils around Sydney spend money removing hard rubbish from their streets, and each Binder transaction would result in less work required to keep their streets clean. Enabling Binder in a council could result in a fee per transaction going to Binder, its users, or both. Individuals or groups that collect hard rubbish in bulk can reduce their efforts by locating and evaluating the available goods through the app, rather than driving around. This could result in a "premium service" for users collecting a large amount of products on a routine basis (i.e., free account capped at 20 items per month). It also promotes the re-use of discarded or broken goods, which will generate a need for fix-it services. Binder could recommend services to users based on goods they have acquired, and these "recommended suppliers" could pay for the exposure. Finally, as more people use the app more time will be spent looking at it. This opens the opportunity for advertising space to be sold, if more revenue is desired at some cost to the experience.
Market feedback identified some existing competition that may limit the scope of Binder. There is no need to replace Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace; these tools make it easy for people to sell goods. As such, we are not trying to provide an alternative for goods that are otherwise sold. We have limited our scope to goods that are otherwise thrown away.
Even still, there are some weaknesses in the idea that may need to be overcome:
To download an app solely for the purpose of cataloguing discarded items left on the street is a big ask. It takes up valuable phone screen real estate and is unlikely to be used as often as other apps.
Even though Binder makes the experiencing of finding and re-purposing discarded items fun and exciting there is still a stigma attached to picking things up off the street. This may be difficult to overcome for some users.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
We're proud to come up with a simple, yet (seemingly) effective way to make it fun for people to extend the life of unwanted goods. Whilst people are increasingly aware of the externalities associated with consumer culture, there needs to be products or solutions that help people make the shift away from their current course. Something fun: Tinder for your bin, is a direct way to engage people in a socially, environmentally and economically beneficial activity.
It encourages sustainable consumption patterns that promote eco-efficiency, which clearly addresses SDG 12 to promote responsible consumption, which also addresses SDG 13 by eliminating carbon intensive activities such as creating new goods or recycling waste. It also addresses SDG 9, using innovation as a source of competitive advantage to unlock previously ignored value. By connecting needy people with valuable goods it also addresses SDG 8, as they can use their time or money for other valuable purposes.
We are also proud to have received market feedback on the idea and prototype, as well as developing a business case for Binder (look here: https://goo.gl/oD3gF4)
What I learned
Innovation doesn't need time, it just needs the right environment, the right people and the right problem.
What's next for Team 4
If we are successful, continue developing the model and bring Tinder to the market!