Sahai’s innovative technological approach to recycling cans, bottles, and other is predicated on the belief that by showing people the impact of their actions in real time (and by giving them direct deposits), he can inspire big shifts in behavior.
As a child growing up in Botswana with a father who built waste water treatment plants, Sahai always had an environmental bug. When he moved to the states, he was fascinated by so-called « reverse vending machines, » the recycling devices outside grocery stores and strip malls that issue cash-redeemable receipts at the registers indoors. « I found them interesting and I liked the crushing sound they made. »
Sahai designed a solution and implemented it at MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Northeastern, and Brandeis University, with machines placed at convenient locations–places you might pass by with a single bottle in hand. Thanks to the data collection component, the students can compete against each other to see which group has the most impact. That’s an idea Sahai thinks can translate into communities all across the country.
« When users see their names on a leader board they are more engaged to come and continue recycling, » says Sahai.
Recycling is a boring chore and sometimes you don’t know how your effort makes a difference or even if it is recycled and re-used [especially in cities with quotas], so by showing a user that even one bottle or can makes a difference in real time the user is encouraged to keep recycling.
According a article of boston.com: « recyclers can track their progress online, compare stats with friends, and win prizes. Users can connect via Facebook, and Sahai intends to give machines Twitter accounts: 50 containers recycled today. »
Photo © Shutterstock / Charmaine A Harvey