Team Announcement

Scrapp 2.0 — Recycling’s BIG Makeover

Dan Marek
April 4, 2022
8 min read

Why is change needed?

The World Bank estimates that we generate more than 2 billion tonnes of household waste each year. That’s like taking New York Central Park and covering it with trash extending a kilometer into the sky. Of this entire amount, 94% ends up dumped in developing countries, landfills, and our oceans — every single year.

🚯 Global waste contamination is the primary cause of recyclables, compost, paper and other valuable materials ending up in landfill.

Landfill heap with overlay text which reads “94% of waste ends up in oceans & landfills”.

What is contamination?

Recycling contamination occurs when materials are put into the wrong bin. This may be a well-intentioned mistake but can result in the entire recyclable bin contents being rejected and disposed of in landfill. The exact opposite of what we’re trying to achieve.

Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re getting it wrong. Often those tiny, hard-to-read packaging symbols won’t even match what your local recycling center will actually accept. You can then throw in the added difficulty that there is no global standardization for recycling guidance. It’s a broken system that has barely improved in the past 50 years — a real minefield for responsible consumers to negotiate and get right.

Highlighting different recycling symbols on American packaging
Image: Leyla Acaroglu

The financial cost of contamination is absolutely massive. Both local authorities and waste management providers are scrambling to do their best to make a deeply flawed, and outdated system work.

In 2018, the UK showed that contamination caused 500,000 tonnes of recycling to be sent to landfill. Over in Toronto, Canada, they found that the city saved over 1 million dollars each year for every 1% decrease in contamination,

💭 The old phrase: “out of sight out of mind” doesn’t quite cut it. When you get it wrong your waste gets needlessly dumped.

Person recycling with overlay text which reads “1% decrease in contamination, $1M estimated savings”

Why don’t we recycle better?

To fully understand this question, we conducted research to get real feedback on what difficulties people experience when recycling.

When people say: “It’s hard to find out if something is recyclable.”
We learn: There is an unmet demand for clear recycling guidance.

Fact: Approximately 40% of branded products still do not clearly show if they can be recycled or not.

So it’s no wonder that search trends for phrases like “is [waste item] recyclable” hit an all-time high in 2021.

People usually have product-specific questions like “what do I do with this peel-off lid?” or “can I leave my caps and labels on?”. Whereas websites and leaflets often contain lots of information yet still leave us second-guessing.

This suggests that in order to help people get it right, guidance must be up-to-date, product-specific, and localized.

When people say: “I don’t recycle if it’s too difficult.”
We think: How can we improve this?

Putting something in the bin is a decision many of us make on autopilot. At best, the average person will spend three to five seconds considering the correct answer. Some people put all sorts of random items into the recycling just hoping that they get recycled. In the industry, this is called ‘aspirational’ or ‘wish-cycling.’ Sadly though, this is one of the most common reasons for contamination. But if we can give people with good intentions a simple tool to get it right, there’s a real opportunity to improve things.

When people say: “I’m terrible at recycling.”
We think: It shouldn’t be this difficult. Let’s fix it.

It’s crucial to start simple, avoid overwhelming people with jargon, and reduce barriers to proper recycling.

💡 The problem with challenges like climate change and encouraging climate action is that people know enough to feel guilty, but not enough to do something about it.

Introducing: Scrapp

Back in 2019, we actually got so fed up with confusing recycling guidance that we decided to do something about it.

And that’s why we came up with Scrapp.

Scrapp is a simple, free-to-use app that empowers people to recycle right. In a nutshell, Scrapp scans your waste items and shows you exactly what bin they go in based on your local recycling rules. And when you get it right, we go one step further to ensure your efforts are never wasted. By removing plastic pollution from the ocean via the world’s leading Plastic Action Platform.

Scrapp was created to educate and empower people to recycle correctly. And that’s precisely what we’ve seen it do. In just a small trial, Scrapp 1.0 was successfully used to divert 13,000 items from landfills.

Based on our research, Scrapp could easily help a city the size of Boston (685,000 people) divert 85,000 tonnes from landfills, saving many millions of dollars each year.

How did we get here?

The first time we put pen to paper was back in 2019. Scrapp evolved from the idea of an intelligent recycling bin — with an accompanying app — that would sort your waste for you.

In Spring 2020, we simplified our approach realizing that a smart bin would be redundant if our app was effective, and launched the Scrapp in its earliest form for friends and family to try out. Meanwhile, as a group of friends, we were also finishing the final years of our University degrees.

After getting finals out the way, we worked evenings and weekends until finally releasing the first version of Scrapp to the public in September 2021. Based on this public version of the app, we were able to test the concept and get some helpful feedback which we used to rebuild the app from the ground up. Below is a snapshot of the journey to Scrapp 2.0.

Various mockups begining with sketches in 2019, through to App 2.0 in 2022.

What’s new in Scrapp 2.0?

Removed

Gamification → Utility — this is the fundamental shift that led to many of the changes you’ll read about in this section. The overriding message we got from people was that they didn’t want to spend ages on a recycling app. They wanted to spend as little time as possible! The reality is that the better we make Scrapp at doing its job, the more informed and confident people will become in carrying out their recycling habits. So we removed the extra fluff and re-focused our attention back on our primary goal — to become the #1 source for reliable recycling advice.

Points and rewards — Our user research revealed the overwhelming majority of people recycle in order to “do the right thing” for the planet. So we decided to prioritize convenience and utility over gamification by retiring the points & rewards aspect from the app (for the time being).

However, we will continue to facilitate custom reward programs where appropriate. For example, when offering bespoke services for local authorities, universities, or schools.

Accounts/ User Profiles — Without points and leaderboards, we no longer require people to create user profiles. This results in a simpler experience and the added benefit of anonymity — so that we no longer have to store any personal information, including names or emails, of anyone who uses Scrapp.

Added

Search A→Z— Many items that people wish to recycle can’t be scanned. To truly enable people to minimize contamination, we needed a way to provide at least essential guidance on how to dispose of non-scannable waste items correctly.

Major changes

Scanning — Flow has been updated to simplify & streamline the process.

  1. Scan: Instant result that summarizes the guidance.
  2. Sort: Detailed guide with instructions e.g., Pot ✅, Lid ⛔, etc.
  3. Repeat: Motivational feedback to reinforce the habit.
Flow of someone scanning, sorting and repeating the habit as shown in three app mockups.

History — Allows people to scan many products at once, then come back to view the guidance later. We have some exciting partnerships in the pipeline with some major supermarket retailers to take advantage of this feature.

Offsetting — Each time someone recycles with Scrapp, they’re also removing plastic from the ocean thanks to rePurpose. Every five items scanned will remove one plastic bottle from the ocean. Add a new product, and we’ll remove an additional bottle. Note: any existing accounts with points will be credited with the equivalent amount of plastic offset when Scrapp 2.0 goes live.

What’s happening this month?

⭐ Launch Scrapp 2.0
⭐ Close Crowdfunding Campaign
⭐ Competitions: Green Alley & Santander Global Awards

What’s next?

Data — We’ve set ourselves an ambitious target: to reach a comprehensive library of product data that will produce automatic recycling information without any user input.

In the future, we will use our unique recycling data resource to help retailers opt for more sustainable packaging options and achieve their Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) goals.

Consulting Services — We’re developing our packaging audits and certification scheme for local, sustainable, product-based businesses, e.g., low-waste stores.

Local Authority Pilots — We’re responding to inquiries to roll out Scrapp within multiple local authorities to help them to reduce landfill, save money, and empower their communities to recycle right.

Partnerships — We’re very excited at the prospect of collaborating with global household names to build the most extensive library of product-specific recycling guidance to date. We’re working on several projects behind the scenes in this area. Stay tuned for more on these soon.

Questions?

How can I help Scrapp?

  1. Vote for us in the Green Alley Awards.
  2. Check out our Crowdfunding Campaign. If you’re fortunate enough to be in a position to be able to invest, we’d be incredibly grateful if you could help us reach our fundraising target! You can become an official Scrapp investor for as little as $100.
  3. Get the app and add new products to our library. This is one of the easiest but best ways to help us grow. Each time we verify a correct entry, it gets shared with the rest of the community and brings us closer to our goal.
Screenshot of Scrapp’s Crowdfunding Campaign

When will Scrapp 2.0 be released?

We’re on track to release Scrapp 2.0 in the next few weeks (Feb 2022).

Will you be providing support for other languages?

Yes! We have plans to make Scrapp as effective as possible by translating into a range of different languages.

When do you plan on growing the team?

Soon! We’re looking to create, nurture, and sustain a global, inclusive culture, by building a diverse team to scale up Scrapp’s success. Be sure to follow our socials to be the first to hear about opportunities to join our team.

Anything else?

Please drop me an email or reach out to me via LinkedIn.

On a final, personal note, I’d like to say a massive shoutout to these legends for their design expertise, help, and support in making Scrapp 2.0 happen; Kedar Joyner, Anthony Hobday, Mani I, Jaysri T Ananthapadmanaban, Jonty Fairless, and Callum Ritchie.


Article by
Dan Marek