A Waste Management Solution.

Trash to Cash(T2C) is a reward program that provides value for tenants, residential managers, and waste management companies and helps combat the problem of dealing with trash, specifically, un-recycled cardboard boxes.


Visual Designer
UX designer

Team Members

Nur Icel
Siqi Wu


As online shopping becoming such a natural part of people’s everyday life now, used packaging boxes have also become a problem. Especially, for apartment buildings where boxes can easily pile up, this would be a tough battle. Tenants and apartment buildings lack the motivation to participate in recycling these boxes, even with smart dumpsters that could compress and sort trash. How, then, can we encourage better recycling behavior? How can we find a way so that tenants, residential managers, and waste management companies are all motivated?


Trash to Cash is a program that benefits tenants, residential managers, and waste management companies. It is a point based reward program directly targeting tenants living in apartment buildings where a certain type of smart dumpster is in service. We create a responsive web application that would be the host of this program.


For tenants, they will be able to automatically enroll in the program for free when they sign the lease. With the reward program in place, we eliminated the choice between throwing away boxes and recycling them.

Residential Managers
Residential Managers

For residential managers, the more tenants enroll in this program, the higher the level of attractiveness and tidiness of the apartment building, and the more potential tenants they are able to attract in the future.

Waste Management Directors
Waste Management Directors

For waste management directors, the program provides the company with a more steady flow of incoming recycling material, higher popularity compared to competitors, improved logistical efficiency brought by sensor data, and business opportunity utilizing consumer’s recycling and purchasing habit data.

What are we looking at here

We were given a rather broad topic when we started the project, but we were able to utilize the crazy eight method to rapidly ideate and narrow down our focus to Cardboard boxes recycling, specifically in apartment buildings.

Background research

With our focus set, we performed background research to determine what information was already out there for customers who wanted to recycle their boxes. Through this, we found several pain points:


Users lack knowledge about proper recycling protocol.


Folding/breaking boxes is difficult for users.


Some cities (e.g. Charlotte, NC) require the user to cut/tear boxes -- no folding allowed.


There are too many box sizes, some don’t match the size of the item.


Not enough industry purchasers of cardboard.


Companies are wholly truthful about how environmentally friendly their packaging is.

Guerrilla Research

We also conducted Guerrilla Research alongside background research. Our guerrilla research focused on the following groups: E-commerce shoppers, residential managers, service providers (waste management, junk removal), and shipping businesses (Amazon, FedEx).

We conducted quick and dirty interviews with representatives from these parties, and were able to have these findings:

  • Users’ behaviors of discarding boxes vary. It is influenced by multiple factors including local regulation, policies at their apartments and customers’ internal value.

  • Some users might keep the boxes for future use.

Residential Manager
Residential Manager
  • Tenants lack the incentives to put boxes into recycling bins.

  • The number of boxes residential management handles fluctuates throughout the year. The peak is the move-in and move-out period.

Junk Removal
Junk Removal
  • Junk removal company handles a large number of boxes, and they oftentimes have to do the folding and sorting job if it is not properly handled by tenants.

  • The financial incentive for the junk removal company to send boxes to recycle center is low.

Shipping Company
Shipping Company
  • Amazon has its own box recycling service at Amazon center.

  • Most of the packaging materials used by shipping companies are recyclable.

Who do we focus on?

Based on the data we collected from our research, we decided to focus on three main stakeholders involved in our problem:


The E-Commerce Shoppers who are living in apartments.

Business Owner
Business Owner

Residential Managers who deal with Waste Management of their apartments.

Service Provider
Service Provider

Waste Management Companies (specifically Recycling Companies).

Journey maps

We created journey maps for all of the three main stakeholders.

Iteration I

In the first iteration, we looked at the journey for each stakeholder individually to identify potential pain points.

Iteration II

In the second iteration, we joined the journey maps from our first iteration together and bring up our attention to detail only in the most relevant pain points.

Pain points

I don’t want to take care of the boxes!

Weakness: No real incentive to ship in fewer boxes.


I don’t want to take care of the boxes!

Weakness: Weather & distance of dumpster to inside (if outside) may influence decision.

Weakness: Flattening  & sorting have to be taken by either customers or waste management.Things easier for waste management means a more difficult job for customers.

Waste Management
Waste Management

I don’t want to take care of the boxes!

Weakness: Whether the customer throws in the recycling or trash,WM still needs to sort the trash (including separating cardboard from other materials)

Weakness: Weakness: A few cents/load is not enough of an incentive(e.g. for junk removal or avg customer)

We condensed the pain points into one core:

"What do I do with the boxes?"


Drawing from the research, we created personas for our three main stakeholders. We included goals, roles, context, problems, and core values in each persona for each stakeholder to pinpoint the key mindsets and objectives of different stakeholders, which then guided our ideation and design process.

Sarah Martin

Sarah works in the bay area as a creative assistant for a start-up tech company. Graduated not long ago from college, she inherited her habit of buying things online, mostly on Amazon. As a prime member in the bay area, she is very much satisfied by the shipping service.

Sarah finds dealing with the boxes of her packages frustrating, since she receives packages nearly on a day to day basis. She wishes she does not need to deal with all the pilled-up boxes. She has seen boxes in the corner of the fire escape left by other tenants. While criticizing those people for being inconsiderate, she secretly envied the convince.

Online Shopper

23, Creative Assistant, San Jose


Ordered items arrive undamaged

Maintain space in apartment

Prefers go to the garbage area as seldom as possible.


Not enough space to store all boxes

If shops a lot, gets a lot of boxes

Too much time breaking down and carrying the boxes around

Ken Adams

Ken has been doing waste collection for Waste Management for about 10 years. He enjoys his job, gets paid well enough. Someone's gotta do the dirty job!

While Ken doesn't mind sorting trash, he often finds it frustrating that a lot of recycling materials are often contaminated. Once contaminated piece of cardboard can ruin the whole bunch. Also, many boxes thrown in recycling are unfolded, which means that they have to be flattened or cut by Ken and his crew. Ken knows that the nearby cardboard processing plant accepts loads of cardboard, but the incentive is only a few cent per load, so it's not enough.

Waste Collector

35, Pittsburgh


Quick and reliable trash pickup

Friendly interaction with neighbors

Good performance evaluation


Improperly sorted trash

Open containers that spill

Boxes that are either contaminated or unfolded

Bob Crawford

Bob is the Director of Operation at WM Inc, one of the largest waste management corporations in North America. WM owns a comprehensive value chain, and he is responsible for improving efficiency of the supply chain and contributing to the long term business growth.

Recycling is one of the focus areas of Bob. One of the business problems with the recycling process is that WM is collecting an increasing amount of carton boxes each year, but most of them are not properly folded or cleaned or separated in the recycling bin. This cause problems of boxes taking up too much space, and extra effort from workers to fold them. Bob is interested in any solutions that can potentially improve the efficiency of their recycling process.

Director of Operation at Waste Managment

42, New York City


Highly efficient supply chain

Strong and sustainable business growth

Want motivated employees


Improperly processed carbon boxes decrease recycling efficiency

Difficulty in developing well balanced solutions


Based on the three personas, we brainstormed more than 20 scenarios that could potentially be developed into storyboards. The scenarios targeted a variety of parties: tenants, waste management company and Amazon. They also echoed back to the pain point that we discovered in previous research:

how might we make getting rid of/ recycling boxes easier?

Storyboards & speed-dating

We selected three scenarios from our many ideas and selected 6 of them to build storyboards.

Round I

Before the first round of testing, we made our first assumption:

People would engage more in recycling cardboard boxes if the process is easy and simple.

In the speed-dating session, we received the following feedback:

For the storyboards about how boxes are “magically” flattened/sorted, our participants were distracted by the detailed depiction of the futuristic solutions and less expressive about their views on their needs.

For storyboards showing boxes handled by Amazon before delivery, many participants expressed the concerns that their goods might not be well protected without the boxes.

Round II

Since our assumption was neither challenged nor verified, we decided to narrow it down to this statement:

People would engage more in recycling cardboard boxes even if the only difference is an easier process of flattening and sorting boxes.

We found that our second assumption was incorrect. People weren’t willing to participate in recycling boxes if the only improvement is the efficiency of the process alone. People generally hated throwing away cardboard boxes and would love a motivator.

Further more, we learned from our users:


Fun is one good motivator.


Coupons felt cheap and outdated; didn’t motivate users enough as much as a tax return or gift card points


Points in themselves could be a form of instant gratification.


Users would be willing to expend more effort if the reward from one dumpster was better than another.


Receiving a paper receipt vs. a digital solution caused cognitive dissonance

With the feedback gathered, we then moved forward towards our solution.


Before we arrive at our solution, the two main points we found from our previous research was:

Everyone hates dealing with boxes

Improvement of the process alone would not improve engagement

That is, even though everyone hates throwing away boxes, having a conceptual dumpster that would compress, sort and log data would not be useful at all. No matter how advanced the dumpster is, people still have the option of simply not recycling.

This is why what we are trying to do here is to take away that choice. Our proposed solution should serve to eliminate choice when it comes to recycling cardboard boxes. We don’t want users to have to decide between Trash and Recycle -- we want the right choice to be immediately, extremely obvious.

Now, assume we do have the dumpsters that could compress and sort recyclable material, how would we create a system that could motive users to recycle?

Introducing, Trash to Cash program.


Our solution would work like this:

A Conceptual Dumpster

A dumpster that could sort and compress recyclable material.

And keeps track of its available space.

It can only function when an authorized individual swipes their card.

When a card is wiped, the dumpster is able to log the amount of trash thrown into the bin and connect it with the user’s account.

For tenants

upon signing the lease with the apartment that is equipped with the dumpster, they will have the opportunity to opt in the program for free.

Once they are registered, every time they swipe to unlock the dumpster and put boxes in, the amount of recyclable material will be tracked and logged to their account as points.

They will later be able to exchange the points into gift cards.

For residential managers

They will be able to keep track of the status of the bin.

And view high-level summaries of material recycled for each tenant.

For service provider

They will be able to view the status of dumpsters in their network and generate real-time pickup routes based on that.

hey will be able to view recycle behavior log data of users in anonymous form from each apartment building.

They will also be responsible of providing the gift card as rewards.

For tenants

Easy and simple way of garbage disposal

Motivated for recycling

Obtain green and environmental friendly habit

For residential managers

Manage garbage disposal in a dynamic way

Cleaner and tidier space in and outside the apartment

Attract new tenants

For waste management directors

Improve logistic efficiency

Accurate prediction on recyclable material received

Competitive in the market

Partnership with retailers and other organizations

Site Flow

We then created a screen map of how our proposed solution might work. The site map includes screens for tenants, residential managers and recycling companies.


We then created wireframes of the most important screens and aspects of our solution, which included desktop, tablet, and mobile versions.

Tenant - Onboarding

A simple 4-step onboarding process to let tenant easily understand what they need to do.

Tenant - Dashboard

Quick access to reward system information and status.

Tenant - Reward Center

See how many points accumulated, and what reward is available. Congratulations for not only earning some points, but also saving the environment!

Tenant - Desktop

You can access the service through your laptop as well - track your progress anytime you want!

Residential Manager - Dashboard

Residential Manager screens prioritize information about current dumpster fill status.

Residential Manager - Message center

Solving tenant's issues with the dumpster, answer their questions and initiate conversations.

Service Provider - Dashboard

The service provider screen serves to provide a quick, high-level overview of the status of their clients, clients’ tenants, dumpster status and pickup frequency, as well as statistics on operation costs and profits.

Service Provider - Dashboard

The service provider can take advantage of dynamic routing provided by this dashboard to see which smart dumpsters are in need of pickup, and which can be ignored. It could be calculated based on the data collected by the smart dumpster.


This was an overall enjoyable process, which seemed unlikely considering the topic area. The solution itself was almost a surprise to our own team, as we went through the research and iterative design process without really knowing what our actual solution was going to be.

We also learned the importance of need focus after we deviated to a solution during the speed-dating process. Digging into users’ needs really helped us understand what users wanted and figure out what was the best solution for them.

We believe we identified a real, common pain point many parties encounter, and provided a real incentive. If we were to do this process over again, we would ideally have more time in the research & speed-dating phases to better optimize our solution.