Climate right for app to cut waste


Innovators: Stephen Halpin with teammate Eleanor Meyer show off their sustainable app. Picture: Yanni

IF all goes to plan, a free mobile phone app developed by a group of Monash students could offer Mornington Peninsula residents economic, social and environmental advantages all rolled into one.

Their ‘Sustain Me’ recycling app will make the Mornington Peninsula Shire the first council in Victoria to have a centralised recycling platform that allows residents to recycle more efficiently and effectively.

Ultimately, this will allow the shire to reduce its waste volumes and increase its reuse of materials, extending the life of existing landfills and, potentially, reducing household recycling charges resulting in cheaper rates.
Such is the shire’s enthusiasm for the app that it has contributed $5000 towards its development.

Innovators Eleanor Meyer, of Parkdale, and partner Stephen Halpin, of Mt Martha, say the idea had its genesis in the 2013 Oxfam-Monash Innovators Program, when they and a group of students were given an opportunity to develop their own creative idea for a social justice project. Both are 24.

“Our idea was the ‘Sustain Me’ app, an innovative mobile platform designed to engage people wanting to recycle with relevant information in a timely manner,” Mr Halpin said.

The massive penetration of mobile phone use made it the ideal medium.

Through extensive research, the team identified that Melburnians – and especially those on the peninsula – recognised climate change, sustainability and waste management as “incredibly important” issues.

“We found that they wished to act upon this and behave in a sustainable way. However, what stopped them doing so was a lack of accessible information in a convenient, easy-to-access medium,” Mr Halpin said.

“Our team also found that, as a result of app technology, people were most happy to use their mobiles as a prime source of information, and so we decided to collate the wealth of council-specific data with a free mobile app.

“It will provide individual notifications to keep the user engaged, and act as a unique platform between councils and residents, which facilitates a space for dialogue to occur.”

This ‘dialogue’ helps users learn about what can be recycled at various councils – such as plastic bags – when to put the bins out and where they can go to dump rubbish sustainably.

“There are lots of ambiguities out there about what can go in the recycling bin,” Ms Meyer said. “Broken glass is one: some councils won’t take it while others will. It’s the same for bike locks: are they metal, plastic or what?”

“We found it frustrating that people had nowhere to go to find out the relevant information.”

The ‘Sustain Me’ app took 15 months – and 558 hours – of product development and research to complete. The team has signed a memorandum-of-understanding with the shire to partner in its testing and roll out.

Renewable resources manager Sophia Schyschow said: “Mornington Peninsula Shire supports the development of the app that will encourage users to recycle in the most efficient way possible.

“‘Sustain Me’ will tell its users how to simply and efficiently recycle whichever item they wish to dispose of [in line with] the user’s council guidelines and location.”

This support means the shire could be the first council in Victoria to have a truly centralised recycling platform. “It gives residents the opportunity to learn how to recycle more efficiently and effectively,” Ms Meyer said.

The group has recently finished its first round of testing and is preparing the free app for launch in the New Year.

Pre-registrations are welcome on or via the Sustain Me site on Facebook.

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