Agencies launch rival recycling apps

Metro Vancouver, Recycling Council duplicate efforts

Screen shots from Metro Vancouver's We Recycle app. The Recycling Council of B.C. has also released its B.C. Recyclepedia app.

Screen shots from Metro Vancouver's We Recycle app. The Recycling Council of B.C. has also released its B.C. Recyclepedia app.

Metro Vancouver and the Recycling Council of B.C. have launched dueling recycling apps that offer mobile search for depot locations, but also raise questions about why two agencies devoted to reducing waste didn’t coordinate their efforts.

Metro launched its WeRecycle iPhone app last week – a few weeks after the Recycling Council unveiled its own B.C. Recyclepedia app, which also covers the rest of B.C.

RCBC CEO Brock Macdonald said Metro gave his non-profit agency no heads up it was working on an app, but adds it probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

“It seems like we do a web-based service and then they do one, we do a Zero Waste Conference, they do one. We do a phone app, they do one,” Macdonald said.

“Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so I guess we’re very flattered by that.”

But he agreed taxpayers might ask whether the duplication was necessary.

Macdonald said he questions Metro’s focus in the area because a coming change to put industry steward groups in charge of an expanded blue box recycling system may leave cities with much less of a role than in the past.

Both agencies say their apps – which are free – cost little to no money to develop.

RCBC’s was volunteer-developed in partnership with the Society for Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC).

Metro’s was developed in-house at no unusual cost by staff who previously launched apps for regional parks and sources of local tap water.

“It’s a little coincidental they came out at the same time,” Metro board chair Greg Moore said.

Both apps draw from web databases run by Metro and RCBC, allowing smart phone users to search for depots that accept various recyclables and then display them on a map or by proximity to the user.

Users can quickly find out the location of the nearest depot that will accept anything from dead batteries and unused paint to old furniture or electronics.

But Moore said Metro’s app runs differently from RCBC’s.

The Metro WeRecycle app displays all locations that accept material equally, sorted by location.

But he said RCBC’s B.C. Recyclepedia app gives preference in its display results to RCBC’s industry steward-run Return-It depots ahead of other unaffiliated outlets that might be closer.

Businesses can be listed in Metro’s app for free, Moore said, but may have to pay on RCBC’s.

Moore said the WeRecycle app is also integrating with local cities to display their rules on what can go in blue boxes at curbside. Some of those cities also have their own apps giving garbage pickup and recycling information.

While the RCBC app is available for both Apple and Android devices, Metro’s is limited to iPhones running iOS 5. Metro plans to make it available for Android soon.

Moore said Metro has had discussions with RCBC on how to integrate their efforts to help residents reduce waste and recycle more.

“We’ll continue to try to do that,” he said.

Metro was poised to eliminate a $60,000 annual grant to RCBC until Macdonald persuaded the regional board in November that Metro residents benefit from RCBC services, which include a recycling advice hotline.