Could a rewards system push us to do our part for the planet?

Tanakitti “Bank” Sachati, 21, Bundit “Bun” Hou, 20, and Sarayut “Kopkap” Lawilai, 21, students at Mahidol’s Faculty of Information and Communication Technology, won the fourth annual Asian Conference on Campus Sustainability in Seoul, South Korea, for their smart bin project that would automatically reward users for recycling. We met up with them on campus to discuss their idea.
 

 

Tell us about the MU Recycle application.


Bank: We all understand that recycling is a good thing, but there is no motive or platform for anyone to actually do it. It’s like eating well and exercising regularly; unless something affects you directly, you don’t do anything about it. People who recycle are either maids or people driving around in sa leng [three-wheel vehicles] buying and selling plastic in big lots. What if people just want to sell one or two bottles? So we created an app that gives you reward points to redeem every time you recycle.


How does it work?


Bun: First, you need to download the MU Recycle application on your phone and create a profile. There’s an online map to tell you where to find smart bins nearby. Once you find the bin, there’s a QR code for you to scan via the application in order to receive points. When the screen says “Ready” you can put the plastic bottle in the bin and your phone will tell you how many points you’ve just received.


How much are the reward points worth in money?


Bank: We are still working on that and haven’t decided yet. The whole thing is still a prototype.


When do you think it will be ready for use?


Bun: Around next year.
Bank: This is our senior graduation project, too. We came up with the basic idea for the competition, but for it to be able to work, there are so many things that we need to look at.
Kopkap: We also need an investor.


What other projects in Seoul did you find interesting?


Bank: I feel like the reason that we won was because other projects were more about campaigning and raising awareness, but we created a practical solution to a problem using technology. There was a project from another Thai university, I forgot which one, trying to campaign for people to stop using single-use plastic bags by creating a viral video and taking notes on the positive impact it made on people.


What did you get from winning?


Bank: We didn’t get any big prizes but there were people coming to swap business cards with us. At the moment, the university ICT faculty is funding the project.


Do you think Thailand has a recycling problem?


Bank: People don’t really pay attention to recycling. I feel like there are no platforms for people to do it, too. Like, if people want to recycle, Thailand still mostly only provides one bin for all waste.
Bun: People just put whatever trash in whatever bin they want. People probably feel like it doesn’t make any difference because they can’t see any impact now.


What else can we do to help?


Bank: The government should be more firm and create consistent standards; sometimes you see three different kinds of bins for recycling, while in other areas there is only one bin.
Bun: Maybe they could support businesses that use recyclable plastic by helping make it cheaper for them to buy.