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Nestle Singapore's new mobile app helps consumers to recycle packaging


Nestle Singapore has launched the world's first free mobile application for iPhone and Android devices to help people recycle waste packaging correctly. 123Recycle, which was developed in collaboration with Nanyang Polytechnic School of Information Technology, enables consumers to scan product bar codes to access information on sorting the various elements of packaging for recycling. The system works with Nestle products in Singapore but is currently being updated to include other products.


By providing access to information at the point of disposal, the app should improve efficiencies in recycling and reduce costly subsequent sorting. Simple errors such as mixing up colored and clear glass can limit the overall effectiveness of recycling and lead to materials being "downcycled" into other uses rather than new packaging.

 

However, the main consumer benefit will be to provide clear guidance on those materials which are harder to differentiate, such as plastics. Research by IGD in 2008 found that almost two thirds of U.K. consumers admitted that they had made mistakes when recycling.


Although this is the first application that is targeted at recycling, it is only the latest involving smartphones and packaging. Companies such as Coca-Cola and Sun-Maid enable consumers to access promotions via their phones, while barcode readers such as Google Shopper allow smartphone users to obtain a wealth of information on products simply by scanning bar codes on the pack.


One of the interesting questions posed by this launch is who benefits. Certainly the consumer benefits from clearer recycling instructions, and local authorities can also gain from greater consumer sorting at source. However, smartphones provide Nestle with access to valuable consumer data, which could be used to provide discounts and promotional offers against repeat purchases. Furthermore, the opportunity to work with other brands could potentially provide a useful source of user data on rival products.


The 123Recycle app is currently only available in Singapore, although there is no reason why similar applications could not be adopted in other countries to promote recycling. However, rolling out the system could prove tricky in regions with a decentralized approach to waste management. While the Singapore system is quite prescriptive, more generic advice on recycling will probably be required in larger, more diverse markets.


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