Wondering whether that greasy pizza box can go into the recycling? Or how to get rid of an old coffeemaker? Or what day glass pickup falls on this month?
Now, with a few taps, your smartphone can tell you. Last month, the city of Flagstaff rolled out a new app, called my-waste, that provides answers to a myriad of recycling and waste disposal questions.
One of the main features is a search function that allows users to type in an object or material, from a plastic clam shell container to a computer cord, and find out whether it can be recycled, or, if it can't, the best way to get rid of it.
The app, for example, also provides disposal locations for hazardous materials, information about donation and incentive programs for big appliances like stoves and refrigerators and notifications about free fix-it clinics where residents can get help repairing toys, electronics and other items. For other items, it includes suggestions for ways to reuse them or ideas on how to purchase more sustainable items in the future, like reusable water bottles instead of plastic disposable ones.
“While recycling is great in a lot of ways, the ultimate goal is to get people to prevent waste in the first place,” said McKenzie Jones, a sustainability specialist with the city.
The other hope is that the app can make the recycling process easier, Jones said.
People can enter their address into the app and get a customized calendar of recycling, trash and bulk trash pickup days. They can also sign up to receive reminders the night before they need to put out their garbage or recycling.
The app is helpful for the city as well because it can send out push notifications letting people know about new items being accepted for recycling or a change in pickup dates due to holidays or bad weather, Jones said.
There is a “contact us” option that directs customers to the city’s phone number and website so people can get in touch easily.
“We are trying to make it less frustrating for people, to make sure city resources are accessible and people understand how to get the answer,” Jones said. “To be able to just look something up at 11 o'clock at night and find it easily is nice.”
The city is hoping increased use of the app will lead to improved recycling habits among residents and an increase in the amount of material diverted from the landfill, Jones said.
Almost 2,500 people in Flagstaff have downloaded the app so far, she said. The same app is now being used by 550 municipalities, including several in Arizona, said John MacDonald, a sales manager with the company.