Tackling the Problem of Waste Management
💪 The Challenge
To develop a critical awareness of the various factors impacting the area of Waste Management and propose changes, and initiatives that can help mediate the issue
My Roles & Responsibilities
Secondary Research, User Research, Affinity Mapping, Empathy Mapping, Synthesis
Class project under Prof. Hana Nagel
(Oct 2021 - Dec 2021)
Team: Me & Isra
// The brief was open-ended, and we had to find a space to focus on.
Narrowing down the problem space...
Secondary research through academic papers and several books
Objective: to get an overview of
policies implemented throughout the world
Shortlisted papers and evaluated them based on :
the number of citations
the date published
Sourced two papers that gave
different perspectives on
implementing waste regulations :
one from a developed country (USA)
one from a developing country (India)
Some topics that emerged from our research were:
Electronic & Hazardous Waste
Finally, through deeper research we narrowed our topic area down to:
Electronic & Hazardous Waste
But Why E-Waste?
We generate around
40 million tons of electronic waste
every year, worldwide.
That’s like throwing 800 laptops/second.
Will double by 2050 (Offenhuber 2017)
E-waste comprises only 2% of total waste but contributes to 70% of toxic waste.
There are no federal laws on the recycling of electronics in the USA.
25 states have put electronics recycling
laws into place.
🧐 Where do we Intervene in the system?
After brainstorming, we decided to start at the consumer level and then go from there, as it was proving to get transparency at the producer level.
How much agency do individual consumers
have in reducing their
🎯 Research Goal
Conducting research to gain insight into our objectives
Understand the difference in consumers' awareness and habits related to solid waste management versus e-waste management.
the current level of understanding consumers possess about the disposal of the devices they purchase.
barriers for consumers in being able to recycle their e-waste responsibly.
Demographic of Interviewees we targetted
🗓 Long-term resident
of Bay Area
So that they have knowledge of
systems in place
Upscale vs. Upcoming neighborhood
Working professionals, families, students
🏠️ Type of house
Living in the Bay Area for
Type of house
🗓 25 years
🗓 10 years
🏠 Town house
🗓 18 years
🏠 Town house
🗓 28 years
We created our interview script to address the 3 research objectives we had
Understanding the interviewee’s background, and making them feel comfortable.
Understanding the interviewee’s current habits around general waste.
Exploring what consumers do with e-waste in specific, and their awareness towards it.
💬 Affinity Mapping of Interview Quotes
We wrote down the quotes from each interview and then clustered them to find overlapping themes
💡 Overall Insights
People are unclear on how to dispose of electronic devices that have reached their end of life, due to a lack of information provided by federal bodies and private companies.
“They just go in the garbage, because I don’t know where else I would throw them.”
People have a willingness to recycle, however, due to a lack of access to convenient disposal options, they tend to store it at home or toss it in the trash.
“Out of laziness and not having a car, I haven’t gone to that extent yet.”
People working in the tech industry were wearier of data privacy concerns and hence more reluctant to recycle their devices.
“I feel really weird about giving my devices that I’ve used to someone other than friends and family because of data concerns.”
People understand the impact of their actions better when schools and their social environment embed the culture of recycling at a formative age.
“My mom would say
‘You don’t like the planet do you?’ So I have that drilled in my mind.”
// Through our interviews we observed that there are
inconsistencies amongst what people know and do.
To explore this further, we did empathy mapping.
🔎 Empathy Mapping
Gaining a deeper insight into the consumers' behavior
Let’s look at the other side - the Producer level