Prior to 2009, Metro Vancouver received hundreds if not thousands of calls each week from people wanting to know how to reuse or recycle unwanted materials – everything from used DVDs to diapers; packaging to old paint. The regional district decided it was time to create an online database of all the locations in Metro Vancouver that accepted materials for reuse or recycling. The database would be searchable by material and accessible to both residents and businesses. Metro Vancouver engaged us to do the back end research to find and verify listings for the database.
The greatest challenge with this project was the timeline. Metro Vancouver had already engaged a website developer and committed to having a ‘live’, fully populated site in just two months. Finding the listings alone would prove quite time consuming, but there were also some planning requirements and functionality improvements to be made to the site. Further to that the recycling and reuse options in the region were extensive. There was a lot of work to be done in a very short time frame.
We approached this project in two phases. The first was a planning phase, where we identified the main categories and then listed materials under each category. We also determined standards for the listing formats and reviewed the existing site to ensure its usability and architecture suited its purpose. Lastly, the first phase involved discovering and reviewing existing databases and identifying gaps to be filled. The second phase of the project was essentially to populate the database by finding and verifying listings.
Because of the tight timeline, it was necessary to assemble a team of researchers. Team members were given material categories and we worked in parallel to find listings. It helped that Julie, who had been the City of Vancouver’s Recycling Coordinator from 1993 to 1996, had a former career in recycling in solid waste management and therefore a good familiarity with the industry and the background and connections to lead the team.
The site launched in March of 2009 with almost 1700 listings within just over 100 material categories. We were able to deliver the listings within the schedule. That said, the project was a learning process. The research timeline required that an ad hoc team be assembled and trained quickly and the turnaround time didn’t allow for as much quality control as we would normally like. The site launched with some unverified listings, and therefore a few bugs had to be worked out after launch. Despite a few glitches, the site was and is a success. Improved online and mobile versions are used by thousands of residents and businesses.