The Quarter (my apartment complex) has over 450 units, we currently have valet service trash collection, but no options to recycle. With these many apartments, property management should at least offer opportunities for people who want to recycle.

Through research and design thinking tools I want to find convenient options for residents at The Quarter to recycle.

Solutions should be low budget and convenient for both residents and property management.

Residents of The Quarter who want to recycle, starting with my husband and me.

Find options for residents at The Quarter who would recycle if the complex offered this service.


How do you feel about recycling?

Tell me why you recycle? If you, don’t tell me why?

Before coming to The Quarter, did you recycle? If yes, walk me through the recycling method?

Did you have to pay for the service? If not, why?

Is not having an option to recycle at The Quarter an issue for you? Why?

Would you address not being able to recycle with your landlord/property management? Why?

Would you talk about this issue to your neighbors? Why?

If there was a petition to recycle at The Quarter would you sign it? Why?

Would you pay a fee in order to be able to recycle? If yes, what would be an acceptable amount? If not, why?

Would you drive any distance in order to recycle? Why? How far would you drive?

Based on my research, the reason why we don’t recycle is because the property management doesn’t pay for the service. How do you feel about this? Why?


Nikole currently recycles even though The Quarter doesn’t offer any options. She takes her recyclables either to her workplace or the recycling facility that is about a mile away from the complex. She’s cautious of what she buys by keeping in mind if the packaging is recyclable or/and eco-friendly.

If there were options at The Quarter to recycle, she would pay a reasonable fee to accomplish this task. She would also sign a petition if there were one. She’s been thinking about starting one, but she’s been busy and needs to do more research before she can begin.


Nikole is trying to recycle, for her, recycling is a social responsibility.

She currently recycles but is not convenient, it takes to much time and effort.

She thinks the complex should offer a recycling service.

Nikole feels good when she recycles; she believes that she can make a difference one person at a time.


Cliff acknowledges that the complex should take responsibility and offer recycling options. He recycles out in the world where he encounters recycling bins but doesn’t try to recycle at the complex since there are no options available.

If there were options to recycle in The Quarter, he would make an effort to recycle especially if he saw his neighbors doing it. If there were a petition to recycle at The Quarter, he would sign it.

He would attempt to recycle if there were options, but wouldn’t pay any fee to accomplish the task.


Cliff would feel peer pressure to recycle.

Convenience is a big part of his life; if recycling isn’t easy, he won’t try very hard to do it.

Cliff recycles when possible, but he’s unsure if materials ultimately get recycled.


Leon thinks recycling is counterproductive and a waste of time.

He doesn’t make any effort to recycle and doesn’t think about eco-friendly packaging when he buys things. He didn’t grow up recycling and doesn’t believe this is an issue.

He might recycle if there was an option that was as convenient as putting the trash out the door, but if it required him to change his lifestyle in any way, he wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t pay any fee or take any initiative to accomplish the task.

If there were a petition to recycle at The Quarter, he would sign it.


Leon doesn’t trust the system, He believes recycling and trash end up in the same bin.

Convenience is a big part of his life; if recycling isn’t easy, he won’t try to do it.

Leon doesn’t feel bad about not recycling. Thinks it’s a Florida cultural issue as he didn’t grow up doing it, and it’s not part of the system.


Recycling Specialist, Department of Solid Waste and Environmental Program Management for the City of Tampa.

The City of Tampa has a main Curbside Recycling Program along with Commercial Recycling Collection Services. He said that The Quarter is inside of the Tampa city jurisdiction; therefore, the property management could signup for the service but will have to be through a private company.

Edgar also said that contracting recycling services will not necessarily increase the price of collections as the amount of trash will get reduced as people throw away less trash and the outstanding funds could be used to pay for the recycling service.


Not enough resources to educate people about what materials are recyclable. This issue presents two main problems:

First, recycling bins/containers often get contaminated; this can lead to entire loads getting rejected from the recycling facility.

Second, 25% of the materials found in recycling bins/containers are not recyclable and either end up compromising the entire load or get stuck and ultimately damage recycling machinery.

Edgar advised me to start a petition and recruit a few of my neighbors who would like to have options to recycle at The Quarter and submit it to property management.


Based on ethnographic research I notice one common statement among all the people I interviewed. They will all be willing to sign a petition to address recycling options with property management.

I also concluded that recycling is a cultural issue, a few of the people that I talked to lived in different cities where they effortlessly recycled. Therefore people in our complex need more information about recycling options and what items are recyclable.

Talking to Edgar from the City of Tampa, was extremely helpful and insightful. This information will help me make more informed decisions when I start the ideation portion of this project.


Based on research, I concluded that education and motivation are essential factors in creating a convenient solution to the problem. All the people I interviewed said they would sign a petition to implement a recycling program at The Quarter. Thus, all of them are open to recycling. Convenience will also play an important part and will be the deciding point on how many people would recycle.



After interviewing ten neighbors and two recycling experts from the City of Tampa, I discovered critical insights about what the pain points, motivations, and behaviors towards recycling at The Quarter are.

An important factor was also found, some people thought that not recycling in Florida was a cultural issue as they didn’t grow up doing it. I believe that this insight is valuable because it ties back to the points of motivation and peer pressure. Based on these results, I developed a new hypothesis, will education about recycling change the perspective and behaviors of the people who don’t believe in recycling?



In this phase, I’ll start thinking about all the possible solutions to my problem keeping in mind my new hypothesis. I’ll then create prototypes that I can share with some of the people I already talked to, along with new participants. Based on these new findings, I’ll start perfecting my designs.


This phase will have a direct link to the ideation step; consequently, I’ll have more information as I start working on ideas and prototypes.


Based on ethnographic research I noticed one common statement among all the people I interviewed. Residents will all be willing to sign a petition to address recycling options with property management.

I also concluded that recycling is a cultural issue; some of the people I talked to have never recycled, but were open to the idea if there was a convenient option. From this insight, I deduced that residents need more information about recycling in Tampa before they can make a decision to recycle or not.


There are no options for people to recycle at The Quarter (my apartment complex).


Educate residents who live at The Quarter about recycling programs and find convenient options for the ones who want to recycle.

During my ethnographic research, I talked to Edgar a Recycling Specialist for the City of Tampa. He suggested I should start a petition and gather as many residents as possible to sing it, and then submit it to the property management. (will probably not accomplish this before the end of the semester).

One way of spreading the word out about the recycling petition is by creating a post in my complex’s internal Facebook group. Depending on the reaction I get from my neighbors, I could set up an information session/happy hour (most residents are young professionals with no kids) to give out information about the petition and the recycling programs offered in Tampa.

Once I gather enough residents’ signatures, about 100, I can take the written petition to the property management.

Since I changed the scope of my project, I want to focus on creating informational pieces about recycling and waste reduction. My plan will be creating an internal campaign with information and resources for people who want to recycle to know what and how to do it properly so that materials get actually processed.


Storytelling will be an essential tool in this process; in order to set up a successful recycling program, residents need to have enough information and resource to decide if they want to commit. By creating a compelling story that everyone can relate to and understand, the chances of getting more signatures will increase. I’ll use Adobe Creative Suite to create pieces that tell this story.

From the feedback I gathered in my ethnographic research, I concluded that one of the reasons why some people don’t recycle is because it’s not part of their lives — I’ll create a Systems Thinking matrix to look at this particular insight through multiple lenses and reach a realistic solution.


Cost is one of the most critical parameters for this project because, neither the residents at The Quarter nor the property management will pay any money to implement recycling at the complex. Therefore if the recycling program is well-planned, it might not add additional costs to The Quarter. As Edgar the Recycling Specialist for the City of Tampa I talked to for my ethnographic research said, if the amount of waste gets reduced, there will be residual money that can be allocated towards a recycling program.

User Experience
All the residents at The Quarter agreed that no matter what the recycling option is, it has to be convenient for them. In my research, I found out that there is a recycling drop-off location about one mile away from the complex. During my ethnographic research, I asked if anyone recycles there or would consider that an option; only one of the people I talked to said she often takes her recyclables there. Another person said she would take her recyclables and drop them off there, but she doesn’t have a car, so it’s not a viable option for her.

The Quarter currently doesn’t have a recycling program in place; thus there is nowhere to recycle or leave items for pickup. For a recycling program to be successful at The Quarter, space needs to be taken into consideration.


Education/Behavioral Change
Based on ethnographic research, I concluded that many of the people who live on my complex don’t recycle because they think it’s not important or they have never done it before. During my audience and storytelling analysis, I reframed my problem to “educate residents who live at The Quarter about recycling programs and find convenient options for the ones who want to recycle.” To educate residents about recycling programs I would need to create an action plan and deliver it in a way that is meaningful for my audience and ultimately leads to a change in behavior.

Emotional Needs/Trust
Many of the residents also expressed that they don’t trust the system and have seen garbage trucks picking up recycling bins. As Edgar, the Recycling Specialist for the City of Tampa explained, recycling materials must meet certain standards to be accepted and recycled. Therefore, for The Quarter to implement a trustworthy and successful recycling program, there needs to be an educational initiative that teaches residents how to recycle correctly.

ROI – Return on Investment
I think this is an important parameter because it will determine the lifespan of the recycling program. If both residents and management see positive results from the program, there are higher chances it’ll live on and eventually creates a more significant impact.

It is an integration of mind and hand, of concrete and abstract. Knowing materials therefore is not a matter of technical hands-on experience or an intellectual exercise, but an integration of both.
Nelson, H. G., & Stolterman, E. (2003). The design way: Intentional change in an unpredictable world (2nd ed.), page 178. The MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Project Type: Research
  • Skills Needed: Illustrator, InDesign, design thinking
  • Customer: Design Leadership Course | Master of Professional Studies in Design Management & Communications
  • Project Year: 2019