Recycling

Mobile app makes waste collection easier

HRM’s innovative mobile app helps users remember collection dates, see what goes where

Halifax resident Sydney Dean can now use a new app to check collection dates.
Halifax resident Sydney Dean can now use a new app to check collection dates.   Sara Connors

Don’t know what day garbage is collected? Confused whether to use clear or black bags? Do popsicle sticks go in the garbage or compost?

There’s an app for that. In the two months since the app was released users say it has made their garbage routine easier.

“The reminders are helpful and the upcoming dates are useful. It’s actually pretty good,” said app user Dustin LindenSmith in an interview.

Google Play user Karen Wood wrote on the app review page “Excellent! Love this app. It is very well laid out, easy to use. Answers all my questions.”

HRM’s Waste Resource Analyst says the response to the app has been positive.

“People like the convenience of having their questions answered without having to call or go to a website,”  said Shannon Betts.

The Halifax Regional Municipality launched the app on July 24,  with the goal of helping users find their collection schedules and sort their garbage and compost.

The app was created by computer programmer Steve Boutilier, who frequently forgot collection day and “relied on his neighbours getting the day right.” It allows users to view and download the collection calendar and notifies users the night before collection day and when there are service interruptions due to weather.

Since its launch, the app has been downloaded more than 25,000 times and has received almost 85,000 views, said Betts.

Other features include:

  • List of closest enviro-depots and special waste depots
  • Alerts when there’s a curbside giveaway
  • Upload to your personal calendar (iCal, Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook)

Another popular feature is the app’s What Goes Where search engine. Users simply type in a waste item, such as a diaper or styrofoam, and the app tells you how to properly sort and dispose of the item.

The app even has a university student section that provides waste management guidelines specific to Halifax.

“Because we have such a large student population that only live here for eight months of the year we wanted to have a spot where students could get an overview of our programs and how to participate,” said Betts.

Betts says the app’s popularity has helped HRM’s new clear bag policy for garbage.

“We think the app has certainly raised awareness of proper sorting and has contributed to improvements…the app has helped with the transition.”

 

   Sara Connors

Though the app has helped improve residents’ and the city’s waste management, some users have complained of it crashing and not being able to search for an item on ‘What Goes Where.’

User Bonita Hatcher wrote “[The] items I search for aren’t listed. Pill bottles… how do they offer “animal feces” as a search result for pill bottles?…I tried pill vials, plastics, drug, medicine.”

With almost 600 items in the What Goes Where search feature, Betts said, “If there is something you can’t find, you can suggest it be added. [And] If users of the app have issues they can report them so the developer can fix them.”

Though the app is not unique to Halifax — Ottawa, Vancouver and Thunder Bay use waste management apps — Betts says Halifax has one of the best waste management programs in the country and using the app can uphold its high standard.