The average American produces around 5.90 pounds of trash every day. Nearly 40% of that trash that is generated is non-biodegradable and will be sitting in landfills for decades. That soda bottle you threw out today? It'll probably be around long enough to see cars fly. As our team of 3 CS grad students was brainstorming for ideas, we noticed the amount of non-biodegradable plastic trash each of us had generated in the short amount of time we had been there, and wondered if this would have happened on a normal day. This is where the idea of a mobile app that helps you track how much plastic trash you're throwing out everyday was born. The idea was to create something similar to a fitness app that measures activity and shows you your personal trends telling you how well you're doing -- except that the activity is how much non-biodegradable trash you're tossing.
What it does
The user is provided with a list of common plastic and non-plastic items thrown out on a regular basis and asked to indicate the quantity of each item that they threw out on that particular day. This data is then entered into a database to maintain historical records to show trends and statistics for the user. A plastic footprint score is calculated for each day and stored in the database as well. The score is also shown to the user, along with a chart showing their daily plastic footprint score over the past week as well as a qualitative analysis of how well they've done on that day.
How we built it
Development Platform: Android Studio This app was built entirely on Android Studio.
Database: Firebase We used a Firebase database to store historical data of trash entered by the user and scores generated by daily activity.
Graphs library: MPAndroidChart The graphs and statistics shown were generated via the MPAndroidChart library.
Challenges we ran into
While our team is already familiar with Android Studio, we were all completely new to using Firebase. Learning how it works and how to make it work with the Android app was a major challenge.
We also wanted to have a quantifiable metric of how good or bad a particular collection of trash is. However, most professional tools that calculate plastic footprint do not publicly list their metric calculation. This meant that we had to come up with our formula for our plastic footprint metric, which was also pretty challenging.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Our goal from the beginning was to create an app that quantifies your trash activity and how good or bad it is for the environment, similar to carbon footprint measurement. We realized that when faced with metrics and direct impacts like this, people are more likely to incorporate small lifestyle changes with respect to the kinds of products that they use and throw out and what they do with their trash. To that end, we achieved all of the goals that we had set out with.
We managed to create an app that looks clean, is simple to use and does what it says. We also came up with our own metric to measure individual plastic footprint, weighted by the amount of time it takes for a type of plastic to naturally decompose. We also successfully integrated a Firebase database with our app to maintain historical activity, which provides a lot of scope for future development.
What's next for Trash Talk
We have built the app with plenty of scope for future development and new features. First and foremost would be incorporating a user login so that user-specific data can be stored in different parts of the database. We can also include features to show users suggestions of practical lifestyle changes they can incorporate to reduce their plastic footprint. We could also show useful resources such as locations of recycling centers or nearby stores that allow you to bring your own containers.
Considering the current state of the world, our planet and its inhabitants cannot afford to continue indiscriminately dumping plastic trash out into our oceans and landfills and pretending it'll just vanish. It is high time all of us take proactive steps to fight for our future, and we believe that products and services like TrashTalk are a small step in the right direction.