UX Research and Design for recycling app


Recycling is not new, and recycling is not exciting. It has been around for decades, and yet normal people like you or I likely are still not completely clear how it should work, and how effective it actually is.

My solution was to leverage the excitement everyday people get from simple gaming and social media apps to create an exciting “experience” around the mundane task of recycling.

My role was to conduct competitive research, create user personas, create wire-flows, iterate designs, and finally conduct 3 rounds of usability testing to land on a finished product... reHustle.


Initial user research revealed that people of all ages recycle. Recycling is as ingrained in American life as taking out the trash. Furthermore, people feel positively about doing it.  However, much confusion abounded from different municipality's recycling rules. It became clear that users wanted to have information with minimal effort.

I was able to whittle down this user research into two distinct user personas. This uncovered the need to make a digital product that is both simple to use and fun, while also giving the user the ability to uncover more information about the positive effect they are having.

User Personas

Initial Sketches



From here I began to create wireframes that reflected the needs of our distinct user personas.   

After spending some time drawing inspiration for the UI, I created a comprehensive style guide and began to iterate a hi-fidelity mockup of the app. 


Now, after feeling pretty good about my design I set out to test my product with real life users. From the very outset, I began to get feedback that really helped open my eyes to design flaws that were present in the app.  

"If I drink 12 beers, I am not going to want to take 12 pictures." 

- User feedback 

Good point. One of the core functionalities of the app is that it keeps track of how many items you have recycled in a given month. However, it does not need to be as tedious as taking a snapshot every time you recycle an item.This enabled a "quantity" function when logging a recyclable item. *see bottom left example below

"I was not able to figure out if an item is recyclable or not without using my camera." 

- User feedback

Touche. This bit of feedback opened my eyes to the need for a comprehensive search function.This allows a user to loosely describe the item they are trying to recycle, and come up with a quick answer without using the "snapshot" function.*see bottom middle example below

 "What is the point of competing against your neighbors?"

- User feedback 

I will admit that this bit of feedback gave me a bit of an existential dilemma as to the purpose of this entire product. However, after much thinking I came to the conclusion that people are inherently competitive, and want to see how they stack up against their peers.

Early in my research I came up with a feature that was similar in function to, ironically, a common utility bill. There is usually a portion of a utility bill that shows how many kW/h of energy you are using in a current month versus your monthly average, as well as versus your most efficient neighbors. Surprisingly when I was first conducting user research, two separate users mentioned loving this feature from their utility bill. This inspired me to make a similar functionality with monthly recycling totals. Also, to up the ante I added a bit more incentive. Now reHustle features specific rewards from local and regional business that can be unlocked with superior recycling performance in a given month.*see bottom right example below.





reHustle will be completed in June of 2020. From conducting User Research to wireframing to finishing a prototype, this has been a tremendous opportunity to dive deep into all phases of the User Experience.  I believe that using the power of our smart phones to inspire and delight can ultimately have a positive impact on the planet.

Using Format