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New app a one-stop shop for region’s waste program

The region’s Waste Whiz looks to bring some clarity to residents dealing with garbage and recycling issues. [Observer image]

Not sure when your garbage will be picked up? What’s currently allowed in the recycling bin? There’s an app for that.

The Region of Waterloo has just rolled out the application aimed at educating residents about better environmental practices.

“Waste Whiz” provides a variety of tools, including reminders for garbage and bulky items collection and service alerts, as well as customizable, region-specific recycling and garbage instructions.

The region had just reached the end of its contract with service providers for the existing “My Waste/Recycle Coach” app. This provided an opportunity for staff to look for ways to improve the service, according to Cari Rastas Howard, project manager with the waste management program.

“[Residents] were looking items up and still ending up a little bit confused because the previous app was trying to use more generic information across many different municipalities,” she commented, of the need for a new app.

Waste Whiz is now 100 per cent customized to the Waterloo Region. It’s been downloaded more than 1,100 times thus far.

New features include an online reporting of missed collection (previously only available on the region’s website). If an item not picked up during collection, residents can enquire as to why directly on the app as a “one-stop-shop.” Like the previous app, users also have the option to look up an item to find out where it should be properly disposed of.

Other benefits include a printable, 12-month customized calendar, and an interactive online game that puts one’s sorting skills to the test. Users choose a difficulty between 1-5, then they are presented with different disposal items such as medication, a pet food bag, or a coffee cup. The goal is to determine where it should go from the following options: return to the retailer/store, paper and plastic bags, green bin, containers only, garbage, or waste management drop off. 

“We’ve chosen some items that are sometimes problematic for people, and then we’ll be able to use feedback from the game to see what are things that maybe people are still … not sure about where they go,” said Howard. “We’ll know how to target our education programs moving forward. We can see what people are confused about.”

Staff can add information, pictures, edit, and make sure all of the information refers to the regions’ programs and services. Improving the app and clarifying information will be an ongoing process, she added.

“Similarly like we’ve done all along, we can track the types of items that people are looking up through the Waste Whiz items search and again we can target the information to hopefully remove some of the confusion that people have,” she said.

The app has other useful features – once a user enters their address, they’ll have access to their personalized calendar. The calendar shows the specific collection week, depending on where the resident lives. 

“You’ll get any changes that happen, like we just went through with the holidays, where we don’t collect on Christmas or on New Year,” added Howard. You can set it up to have a reminder be sent to you either the day of, or a day before, or a few days before so that you don’t miss the bi-weekly garbage collection.”

Residents can also opt-in for push notifications, which will inform them if there is a problem with collection in their neighbourhood. Staff are currently looking into notifying only those affected by each specific announcement. 

The app is free and can be downloaded on the App store or Google Play.

Additional information on the region’s waste programs can be found on the region’s website or from customer service at 519-575-4400.

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