Design and Waste Management

Introduction

As mentioned in our previous blogpost, any and all waste management interventions are futile if they don’t address one fundamental problem:  the lack of waste segregation at source. For a better understanding of all things segregation read through: Segregation.

At Kabadiwalla Connect we are looking to integrate design into the waste management system. The products we hope to come up with will be aimed at bringing about a change in behaviour. 
Segregation is usually not incorporated in the work-flow of a household due to various reasons. 
“No provision in the housing complex”, “Never felt the need to segregate.”, “It is a time consuming process.”, “No mandatory requirement”, “No space in the house.”, “I believe it to be unhygienic and messy.” These are just some of the common reasons we hear everyday as to why people are not inclined to segregate their waste. Segregation should become a habit. We believe that this problem can be solved through design.  Daily habits are powerful. In fact, daily habits are the most powerful of all behaviors.

The research that goes into designing such products is crucial. What may work in one type of environment will change drastically when put into a new scenario. The Indian context in itself is vast and one must narrow it down as much as possible to bring about the biggest change. We have received quite a few responses on a survey that we sent out, (Waste Segregation)  and are looking for a few more to better understand the needs of the user.

The current scenario shows that the type of products required  for segregation may very well be a storage system or unit.

Images showing storage systems seen in Indian households.

Images showing storage systems seen in Indian households.

It is safe to assume that one of the reasons people don’t segregate or store recyclable materials is simply because they prefer to keep them out of sight. “Out of sight, Out of mind” fits well to describe this situation. Often due to this reason the designer forgets to prioritise the function of the product.

DESIGN DIRECTION

The approach we are looking at in our design process takes inspiration from the elements of simplicity described in the Fogg behavior model. In real-world design, increasing ability is not about teaching people to do new things or training them for improvement. People are generally resistant to teaching and training because it requires effort. This clashes with the natural wiring of human adults: we are fundamentally lazy. As a result, products that require people to learn new things routinely fail. Instead, to increase a user’s ability, designers of persuasive experiences must make the behavior easier to do. In other words, persuasive design relies heavily on the power of simplicity. A common example is the 1-click shopping at Amazon: because it’s easy to buy things, people buy more. Simplicity changes behaviors.

 The Fogg Behavior Model has three factors: motivation, ability, and trigger

 The Fogg Behavior Model has three factors: motivation, ability, and trigger

As a designer the inspiration must be related to the specific scenario. The six elements of simplicity stated by Fogg are Time, Money, Physical effort, Brain cycles, Social deviance and Non-routine. If a user requires time to segregate and they don’t have time on their hands, then the task is not simple. For people with limited financial resources, a target behavior that costs money is not simple. Most people are looking for shortcuts to complete a task. A product that requires the least effort to function, by default becomes simple. If performing a target behavior causes us to think hard, that might not be simple. This is especially true if our minds are consumed with other issues. In contrast, some people are very good at thinking, so this link in their simplicity chain will rarely break. But for the most part, we overestimate how much people want to think everyday. Thinking deeply or thinking in new ways can be difficult. Social deviance is going against the norm, breaking the rules of society. If a target behavior requires me to be socially deviant, then that behavior is no longer simple. Trash is never kept out in the open, therefore its proper management has never been a priority. People tend to find behaviors simple if they are routine, activities they do over and over again. When people face a behavior that is not routine, then they may not find it simple. In seeking simplicity, people will often stick to their routine. (Fogg, 2009)


According to Matthew Holloway (2016), “The biggest challenge with simplicity is that you must spend a lot of time in complex thought in order to achieve it – weighing trade-offs, practicing artful subtraction, and vigilantly defending the white space. You also need to spend a great deal of time looking for patterns, both inside your design as well as in the outside world. These latter patterns are the ones that your consumer, consciously and subconsciously, will be using to evaluate your product, to see if they get it, if it gets them, if it delights and seduces, in short to see if it’s a fit for them.”

RELEVANCE OF A PRODUCT TO ITS TIME

More often than not a product fails as it is not designed for its time. Today, 47% of the waste going into landfills is organic waste and 18% is recyclable waste. Furthermore, out of the total 4500 tonnes generated everyday, 68% is residential waste. Now is the time more than ever where a product that aids in waste management will be relevant.

An example of products in the waste management line that are interesting to study are, the Garbo and Garbino products of the 1990s. As Misha Volf says “It was designed at a time when the popular perception of waste and its ecological impact was still a bit abstract, if not naive (environment=good, trash=bad). Back then, the harsh reality and implications of global warming still hadn’t quite reached critical mass; municipality-scale recycling efforts remained nascent and unevenly distributed, while corporate environmental policies were just coming into vogue. Viewed within this context, the Garbo and its fabulous disappearance of trash into a generous, feminine form may be tolerated as an unfortunate relic from the environmentally drowsy ’90s.” (Volf, 2016)
 

When it was released in 1996, the Garbo's wanton form and glamourous pedigree (derived from the allusion to actress Greta Garbo) made waves for making trash sexy. (Volf, 2016)

When it was released in 1996, the Garbo's wanton form and glamourous pedigree (derived from the allusion to actress Greta Garbo) made waves for making trash sexy. (Volf, 2016)

Through design the product made waves, regardless of its relevance. The handle cutouts, positioned above the lower edge of the bin, ensure that a person lifting this basket, even when it's full, would never come in contact with its contents.

OUR APPROACH

The design process will eventually lead to a stage where the ideas are to be brought to life. The manufacturing of the product requires for Function, Form, Material and User Experience all to be fixed on, tried and tested. It is a cyclic process that requires for one to keep going back and forth in order to get the perfect iteration of all the elements. 
It is an exciting process to see how design fits into different fields. We are hoping to create a product that gives waste a new outlook. Something that has always been taken for granted can no longer be overlooked. 
The product we create will be looked at from different approaches. We are at a conceptualizing stage where we throw around ideas in order to come up with a good concept. Kabadiwalla Connect is looking to create a range of waste management products, starting with a segregation unit. When we look at the entire waste management cycle, a product that aids in this process will definitely be able to make its way into the market. The How, When, Where and What is what we will be answering.

As designers we are always observing our surroundings and always looking for inspiration. We make moodboards to help us visualise a certain style or language that we hope to evoke in our products. 

We at Kabadiwalla Connect are experimenting with materials that are recyclable. A product that aids in waste management, made out of what ends up as waste is the direction we are moving towards. It is a learning process for us, balancing all the requirements to design a product while trying to get the perfect blend of attributes for the product. Each stage requires intensive research and what ranks at the top is the user. 

We would like for you to fill in our survey Waste Segregation and also give us feedback and inputs on what you believe could be relevant to us in our design process. If you are aware of and use good waste management practices, we would like to know about it. You can email us at nayantara@kabadiwallaconnect.in

References

Fogg, B. (2009). A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design. 1st ed. [ebook] california, pp.5-6. Available at: http://bjfogg.com/fbm_files/page4_1.pdf [Accessed 1 Apr. 2016].

Captology.stanford.edu. (2016). BEHAVIOR DESIGN – Persuasive Tech. [online] Available at: http://captology.stanford.edu/projects/behaviordesign.html [Accessed 1 Apr. 2016].

Holloway, M. (2016). Embracing Simplicity in Product Design. [online] GeekWire. Available at: http://www.geekwire.com/sponsor-post/embracing-simplicity-in-product-design/ [Accessed 1 Apr. 2016].

Volf, M. (2016). GARBO AND ITS DISCONTENTS. METROPOLIS MAGAZINE. [online] Available at: http://www.metropolismag.com/January-2016/Garbo-and-Its-Discontents/ [Accessed 1 Apr. 2016].