Descartaê Mobile Application
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Methods used: user interviews, participatory design workshop facilitation, usability testing

Outcomes: Research led to prototypes and design of new mobile app, Descartaê, available in Google Play and iOS (Brazil). Usability testing insights used to improve UX design.

Descartaê (“Throw it out over there”) is a mobile application that combats illegal dumping by making it easy to recycle and throw out garbage.

How might we stop illegal trash dumping? 


Using a mixed-method ethnographic and generative approach, our team sought to build three mobile apps that helped solve local problems. 

In a series of generative research events (“Generator Sessions”), many participants talked about the ill effects of illegal dumping, including clogged aqueducts, increased flooding, and resulting waterborne illnesses. I co-facilitated the design workshop process, which created two low-fidelity prototypes that addressed the illegal dumping issue.

Understanding why people illegally dump garbage and old appliances

I used interviews to understand why people illegally dump - it’s not because they hate the environment, but they don’t know how to get rid of old stuff responsibly. Government resources were incomplete and did not cover the further away or poorer areas, where the problem was worse.

How to get the information into the right hands?

Our team worked with librarians in a co-design process to design a data portal that allows them to use their community knowledge to add to existing government resources, creating a bigger, more accurate data set that was available to more people. The accompanying mobile app helps people view recycling centers and disposal sites on a map, a list, and by type of waste.  I then used surveys to collect user and community feedback on the prototypes, which helped us to prioritize features.  

Refining the product

I designed and performed usability testing for both the mobile application and data portal. Testing led to significant changes in the data portal, including an improved process for creating new records, saving records, and inputting schedules.


I used the following methods in this project:

  • user interviews

  • usability testing

  • participatory design workshop facilitation