waste application for smartphones
City of Vienna- Department MA 48 - Waste management, street cleaning and vehicle flee´t

The Problem

International data show that the motivation of citizens to participate in separate collection faces greater challenges in metropolises than in rural areas. Although Vienna already holds a top position regarding separate collection if compared to other metropolises, there is still a need to improve the participation of citizens in separate collection in order to increase the recycling rate and obtain a better overview of the volumes of individual problematic substances. This calls for great efforts in service provision and intergenerational communication. Thus PR work needs to reach out regularly to various target groups by means of various measures to safeguard and further encourage eco-conscious waste management behaviour in the long run and meet the demands of Vienna’s population. The information provided contributes to strengthening eco-consciousness as well as trust in and understanding for the work of Municipal Department 48 (MA 48). This is a precondition for ensuring that Vienna’s citizens will truly use the services offered by MA 48: concerns such as waste separation, the clean city and waste avoidance must be communicated regularly and in manifold ways while at the same time creating an appealing service range with easily accessible information. Within the City of Vienna, MA 48 is in charge of waste collection and treatment, keeping the city clean and communicating environmental concerns. Regular information tasks comprise advertising campaigns, a dedicated service hot-line for all questions regarding waste management, visits to schools and kindergartens and on-site activities, guided tours of waste treatment plants, brochures and leaflets, mobile waste management advice at events as well as special large-scale events such as the annual Waste Festival with its over 26,000 visitors.
In recent years, the forms of communication employed by the advertising industry in general are undergoing change, since technological possibilities (Internet, social media, apps, etc.) for procuring information are rapidly changing as well. These technological innovations are affecting the expectations of the population regarding information. While in the past phone contacts or personal talks during regular office hours were the usual method of communication, people today expect to obtain instant information anytime and anywhere. MA 48 reacted quickly to this change and thus has been maintaining a comprehensive website for several years as well as a facebook page for the past two years and also has posted videos on YouTube. Here, too, smartphones and tablets are quickly opening up new possibilities to improve and intensify the direct communication with citizens.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
In recent months and after consulting with the competent departments of the Vienna City Administration, MA 48 thus joined forces with an external Vienna-based company to develop a special application for smartphones (Android + iOS). These two smartphones hold a market share exceeding 80%, which covers the major part of smartphone users. The app is to offer a practical and, above all, a low-threshold addition to the existing information range (folders, personal counselling, advertising campaigns, Internet, facebook, etc.) of MA 48. The app further facilitates access to separate collection options and contacts with the municipal waste management enterprise MA 48 for the population and moreover helps to reduce littering. The idea is to target above all young people, the MA 48 staff of 3,500 workers and techie citizens of Vienna.
The MA 48 app offers all key information regarding waste disposal in Vienna. The publicly accessible facilities of MA 48 are shown on a city map, with the shortest route calculated on request. The default route calculation is environmentally friendly by following pedestrian traffic. A calendar lists the next collection dates of the mobile collection points for problematic waste as well as upcoming events of MA 48.
The reminder function is very useful above all for problematic waste collection, since 88 out of 111 collection points in Vienna were transformed from fixed into mobile points last year. These mobile points are manned by special vehicles for two hours every four weeks, which means that the disposal of problematic waste must be planned in advance.
In spring 2013, an activity was launched to collect plastic bottles in “yellow bags” by picking them up door-to-door in zones largely composed of single-family homes in two municipal districts of Vienna. Every six weeks, the bags are to be placed outside the garden gate by residents for collection. A targeted information and timely reminder function for the local population was also foreseen in the existing app.
After Christmas, MA 48 in addition to its waste collection centres open throughout the year also operates 504 Christmas tree collection points for a limited period (until 19 January 2013), which are clearly shown in the city map of the app.
The “Waste ABC” of the app provides clear-cut information about environmentally correct waste separation and explains which waste types need to be disposed of in what fashion and where; the Waste ABC already comprises hundreds of entries and is constantly being expanded.
But direct contact with MA 48, too, is easy with the app, either by calling the service hotline or sending an e-mail or social media message (facebook, Twitter).
The application impresses with its simplicity, which permits contacting or learning about all MA 48 service facilities at any time, free of charge and in just a few easy steps. Using the app is very simple anywhere in Vienna – at home, on the road or at work: a good overview of all disposal facilities is always available.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The programming of an attractive application was the logical outcome of the current technological developments in the field of smartphones and provides a complement to the existing service range. The idea to create this app sprung up at MA 48, since key prerequisites were already in place: the necessary data are available as open government data and updated on a daily basis. Therefore no further interfaces are needed, and the topicality and accuracy of the data are safeguarded. In recent months and after consultation of the competent departments of the Vienna City Administration, MA 48 joined forces with an external Vienna-based company to develop a special application for smartphones (Android + iOS). Within the Vienna City Administration, this is the first official application programmed on its behalf. As a result, there were no pre-existing requirements in the form of a style guide or technical project execution standards to be met. Close co-operation among the municipal departments and divisions concerned was therefore called for. Obviously, a key target group of this app is the MA 48 staff members, who are confronted with waste issues on a daily basis and hence can benefit from the app in their work. For this reason, the 3,500 employees of MA 48 were informed in advance about the completion of the app and were asked to actively participate in its design.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The app was programmed in summer 2012 and has been available for free downloading to all smartphone users (Android und iOS) since 19 November 2012. Where useful, the app will be constantly evolved. Thus information about the 504 post-holiday Christmas tree collection points is already being implemented in the app; an addition to include information about the zones for the “yellow bag” plastic bottle collection activity for single-family homes in two municipal districts is being planned as well.
To avoid potential errors, duplication of work and unnecessary interfaces and to ensure topicality, the data used in the app are mainly taken from the stock of open government data of the City of Vienna. Thus the development process required co-operation between different departments of the City of Vienna. Since this was the first official app produced by the City of Vienna, there were no previous experiences or requirements for the programming languages to be used; also, there was no style guide. All this had to be jointly developed and agreed.
All communication channels open to MA 48 were used to disseminate the app, with special attention paid to in-house communication with the staff. MA 48 has 3,500 employees, who constitute a key target group as information multipliers. For this reason, all staff members received a separate folder already prior to publication, on the one hand to inform them about the functionalities of the app and on the other hand to encourage them to play an active role in app design. Thus employees can report potential programme errors or propose ideas for useful future additions to the app. In addition to employee information via the folder, an article was also published on the Intranet and in the quarterly in-house journal of MA 48. Within the Vienna City Administration, the app was moreover published on the municipal Intranet (to which approx. 70,000 employees of the City of Vienna have access), on the website of the City of Vienna and on the MA 48 homepage (www.abfall.wien.at). All partners of MA 48 for whom this application may prove of benefit (waste collection and recovery systems, waste disposal facilities, Waste ABC for information on waste separation) and Municipal Department 42 – Parks and Gardens (dog waste bag dispensers, etc.) were likewise informed by e-mail and additionally invited to advertise the app through their own information channels. Moreover, the new application holds a prominent position on the MA 48 facebook page and is publicised by means of special posters mounted on the waste collection vehicles, glass recycling containers and sand boxes of MA 48. Due to a press release, the main dailies also informed Vienna’s population about the new app.
The aim lies in exploiting all possibilities to further promote separate collection and reduce littering. As the municipal waste management company, MA 48 employs this application to become an even more modern and above all a highly customer-oriented service provider. While the app is only one small tassel in the multifaceted mosaic of communication with the citizenry, it emphasises very clearly the commitment of MA 48 to provide information through multiple channels and respond to customer needs. Nowadays, mobile phones with Internet access have overtaken traditional PCs where information search is concerned. Today’s citizens expect to obtain all relevant information in the wink of an eye, irrespective of time or location. Thus it is necessary to adapt to these expectations on an ongoing basis, which logically led to the programming of the app in question.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
In late 2011, it was decided to program a special waste app to complement the existing communication channels and to make this app available free of charge. In spring 2012, MA 48 developed a requirement specification listing all relevant functions and charged an external company with its implementation. The development of the resulting product proceeded in close consultation between client and contractor as an ongoing process. Parallel to the completion of the app, a communication concept was developed for its promotion in order to make full use of all existing possibilities and avoid spending additional funds.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The biggest challenge for the project lay in co-ordinating the different departments and divisions of the Vienna City Administration and ensuring that the data would be topical and accurate without drawing on new interfaces that might prove prone to errors.
The continuous involvement of all relevant departments of the City Administration ensured quick project implementation. Time-tried data stocks (open government data) of the online city map of Vienna, which was introduced already several years ago, are used as the data source, thus avoiding potential errors and duplications of tasks. The waste guidebook (“Waste ABC”) and existing links can be easily added to in order to meet customers’ needs on an ongoing basis.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The resources required for the project were moderate, since the major part of the data implemented in the app was already existent, which also keeps maintenance costs low. The cost incurred by MA 48 was largely due to defining the functionalities and design of the app and testing it after programming. The programming work was done by an external company and required only a few weeks. The running cost is likewise very low, since no server expenses need to be paid; the same goes for data transmission and push messages, which likewise entail no cost. By comparison, reminder messages sent as SMS texts would result in additional expenses.
For the citizens, the benefit mainly lies in the simple handling of the app, as information about waste separation can be obtained, or MA 48 can be contacted for questions, in just a few easy steps anywhere and anytime. The service is free of charge and complements the service range offered by MA 48. The reminder function for the dates of problematic waste collection at the mobile collection points (already implemented) and for the pickup of the “yellow bags” (in the planning stage) makes it easier to get used to these new collection services. In the past, problematic waste was collected at fixed hours every day; today, there are more collection points, but waste can be left there only at specific time-slots of two hours every four weeks. In the “yellow bag” zones, too, the population must get used to new disposal times. While the public collection containers for plastic bottles permit disposal around the clock, the yellow bags are collected door-to-door. However, the bags may only be put out in front of the garden gate in the evening or early in the morning before being picked up by a MA 48 vehicle – this is to avoid an unpleasant visual impact. Thus the app offers an easy way of keeping informed about the different collection dates.
For MA 48, the benefit mainly lies in staying in contact with the population, positioning itself as a modern service provider and winning over new target groups to embrace environmental protection.
This is one single measure out of many that contribute to encouraging and facilitating waste separation in the metropolis and reduce littering. The app offers the possibility of disseminating information to citizens in an uncomplicated and low-cost manner.
In addition to this state-of-the-art application, MA 48 conveys information in manifold ways, and numerous activities are conducted on an ongoing basis in order to promote the objectives of environmental protection and sparing resource use to the public at large: the waste hot-line as an MA 48 service that answers all questions relating to waste, a comprehensive website including a facebook page, a dedicated YouTube channel, a wealth of information brochures and annual advertising campaigns, visits to kindergartens and schools, participation in events, guided tours of waste management facilities and “join-in activities”, such as the collective spring cleaning activity to sensitise the population to the benefits of a clean city. The app completes this information range and is part of the communication of MA 48 with the citizenry.
In the span of just one week, the app was downloaded already 1,600 times, which reflects the acceptance of, and need for, such a service on the part of the population.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
In slightly modified form, the app can easily be adapted to other municipalities and countries if these already dispose of a similarly sophisticated system of waste collection and treatment. Thus such apps certainly make sense and can be employed, in somewhat modified form, in European countries or the North American region, as the objectives and needs of waste management in these countries are by and large similar. The MA 48 app could serve as a good model to follow.
Providing information via electronic channels to be accessed anytime and anywhere free of charge also eliminates the need for printed material or printouts. Of course, the app in itself promotes the cause of separate collection and helps to reduce littering. Thus the application also contributes to climate protection and sparing resource use and enhances customer satisfaction.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Despite the short time elapsed since the implementation of the app (which went online on 22 November 2012), the positive response is enormous: over 1,600 downloads were recorded within a span of only five days. While many applications for mobile phones are available, we believe that no app so far has offered such great variety of services in one single application: the Waste ABC serves as a guidebook to inform about all legal disposal possibilities; the city map and augmented reality visualisations indicate the location of separate waste collection points, public toilets and dog waste bag dispensers; reminders of collection dates or events are sent as push messages and saved in a separate app calendar; and uncomplicated contact with MA 48 is safeguarded as well. Citizens can easily e-mail their requests, suggestions, queries or complaints from the app, can directly call the Vienna waste hot-line or may post their comments on the MA 48 facebook page. Time-tried data stocks (open government data) of the online city map of Vienna, which was introduced already several years ago, are used as the data source. The “Waste ABC” guidebook and the existing links can be easily added to in order to meet customers’ needs on an ongoing basis. As an additional benefit, relevant information from MA 48 can be very easily communicated to app users free of charge, since news can also be sent as push messages. No similarly easy-to-use and comprehensive models in the field of waste management are known so far, as the areas previously covered have always been of limited scope only. The app is one of numerous measures conducted by MA 48 over many years to encourage separate collection and reduce littering. Moreover, the ties to our customers as well as customer loyalty are strengthened as well.
It is also important to involve all relevant groups – be they decision-makers, staff members or customers – right from the beginning.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   City of Vienna- Department MA 48 - Waste management, street cleaning and vehicle flee´t
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Ulli Volk
Title:   -  
Telephone/ Fax:   +43 1 58817-48041
Institution's / Project's Website:   www.abfall.wien.at
E-mail:   ulrike.volk@wien.gv.at  
Address:   Einsiedlergasse 2
Postal Code:   A-1050
City:   Vienna
State/Province:   Vienna
Country:   Austria

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