Changing throwaway culture with technology

Contexxt > Architecture > Changing throwaway culture with technology

We all seem to be aware of how harmful single-use plastic bottles are. Still 7.7 billion plastic bottles are bought across the UK each year, resulting in substantial amounts of single-use plastic waste

Helpful together with Contexxt team has recently launched an app that changes throwaway culture. ‘Recycle’ is a Scottish plastic bottle recycling pilot that makes it rewarding (credit goes to Helpful card) to recycle with ease.

‘Recycle’ will help to reduce Scotland’s CO2 emissions by 160,000 tonnes, which is the equivalent of taking 83,000 cars off the road.

How does ‘Recycle’ work?

You download the Recycle mobile app and register to get the Helpful card. After that, each time you scan barcodes on a bottle, throw scanned bottles to Recycle bins you can find now around the Glasgow area, you get a cashback of £0,2 per bottle to your Helpful card. So it’s the very first time in history when you get cashback for used bottles directly to your account


There are a number of challenges that the Contexxt team faced when we got down to working on the app. The most critical was “How to connect to the bins and ensure a consistent process: bottle to the bin, cashback to the wallet?”

  • Helpful team ordered and installed bins where the used bottles are thrown to 
  • We had to find a service to listen to the events from the bins so that the Helpful team could confirm getting the bottles that have been scanned in the app, as well as make sure that the bins are working properly
  • The events that they need to get reported about are Filling of the bin (so that the special service can collect bottle in time), Heartbin, Open/Close, Pressblock, etc


Working closely with the customer, our Solution architect and Back-end developer came up wit the following solution

  • MQTT service to listen to the events from the bins (bin health, bottle payout, bin status) and send messages to the Recycle backend has been chosen. The MQTT protocol is a machine-to-machine (M2M)/”Internet of Things” connectivity protocol. Designed as an extremely lightweight publish/subscribe messaging transport, it is useful for connections with remote locations where a small code footprint is required and/or network bandwidth is at a premium
  • Python and Paho were chosen for the MQTT service. The Paho Python Client provides a client class that enables applications to connect to an MQTT broker to publish messages, subscribe to topics and receive published messages 
  • All events are generated to control the statistics, number of bottles scanned as well as number of bottles thrown to ensure that the product logics is clear for our user

We are still in the process of testing and refining the solution. But we’ve made sure that the project can be scaled, more bins can be installed in public places, and more bottles can be recycled to make the planet greener

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