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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

The Challenge
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
Figma, Miro,
Google Docs
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// 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

  • the space                                                

  • stakeholders                                          

  • policies implemented throughout the world

Shortlisted papers and        evaluated them based on :

  • abstract                                                     

  • 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)

Secondary Research
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Some topics that emerged from our research were:
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Informal Sector

Circular Economy

Awareness &

Educating Consumers

Electronic & Hazardous Waste

Finally, through deeper research we narrowed our topic area down to:
  Electronic & Hazardous Waste  

But Why E-Waste?

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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.
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How much agency do individual consumers
have in reducing their
electronic waste?

🎯 Research Goal

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Research Goal

Primary Research

Conducting research to gain insight into our objectives

Research Objectives

  1. Understand the difference in consumers' awareness and habits related to solid waste management versus e-waste management.

Uncover the

the current level of understanding consumers possess about the disposal of the devices they purchase.



Identify the

barriers for consumers in being able to recycle their e-waste responsibly.

Primary Research

Participant Demographics

Demographic of Interviewees we targetted
🗓 Long-term resident

of Bay Area

So that they have knowledge of

systems in place

🖼 Neighborhood

Upscale vs. Upcoming neighborhood
👣 Age

Working professionals, families, students

🏠️ Type of house

Independent vs.
Apartment complex

Participant Details

Living in the Bay Area for


Type of house



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🗓 25 years


🏠 Independent

🖼 Upscale


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🗓 10 years


🏠 Town house

🖼 Upscale



🗓 18 years

Real Estate

🏠 Town house

🖼 Upcoming


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🗓 28 years


🏠 Apartment

🖼 Upcoming

Interview Script

We created our interview script to address the 3 research objectives we had
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Understanding the interviewee’s background, and making them feel comfortable.

  Objective 1  

  Objective 2   

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Understanding the interviewee’s current habits around general waste.

  Objective 3   

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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
Affinity Mapping

💡 Overall Insights

//Insight 1

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.”


//Insight 2

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.”

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//Insight 3

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.”

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//Insight 4

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.”

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// 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

🔎 Empathy Mapping

Gaining a deeper insight into the consumers' behavior
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Let’s look at the other side - the Producer level

👩🏻‍💻 Apple Trade-In 

Customer Journey Map

To explore initiatives companies are taking to facilitate e-waste recycling & understand how convenient it is for users to trade in their devices.
Why Apple?
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Interviewees had awareness of the Apple Trade In process

Journey Mapping
Key Findings

🔑 Key Findings


People are very unaware of
e-waste processes.


Convenience plays a big role in their lives. 


Social factors and data privacy contribute to this issue as well.


There is a large gap in what people want to do versus what they are able to do. Steps need to be taken to bridge the gap.


Multiple stakeholders need to take responsibility for facilitating responsible e-waste management to address this wicked problem.

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