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Collecting litter – for fun?

A gamified recycling bin to help create a better world.


New ideas make the world go round. And when it comes to building a greener future, we don’t think you can have too many.

So when a group of year 8 and 9 pupils from Liverpool shared an idea for what they’ve described as “a bin that could change the world, hopefully!” we knew we only had one choice: help them make it a reality.


"Cleaner streets and a calmer world"

Can one recycling bin change the world?

What if it’s a gamified bin designed by 11-13-year-olds to make their world a better place?

It’s a question we’ve been asking ourselves since Deloitte and education charity Debate Mate set schools across the UK a challenge: to pitch an idea that could help create a better world.

Tapping into their hope for cleaner streets and understanding of how to motivate their peers, a team from Cardinal Heenan Catholic School in Liverpool wanted to use tech to make recycling more fun.

They proposed a gamified, digital recycling bin that could raise the profile of recycling at school and engage people by introducing a collaborative, competitive twist.

“We see a lot of litter around us,” says Myles, aged 12, part of the team.

“If we have these bins, people will be more motivated to use them.”

“Then we’ll have cleaner streets and a calmer world.”

The idea sparked a journey the team members have since described as “emotional” and “mind-blowing” – and an experience that’s definitely changed something.

Based on user experiences

Beating competition from 137 other senior schools, the idea caught the eye of judge Ed Greig, Deloitte’s chief disruptor, who invited the group to design and build a prototype bin alongside experts from Deloitte’s X Lab.

“I was so impressed,” says Ed. “Unusually, the team had already gone through different iterations, foreseen problems, looked at how to solve them and considered how they’d make it work in practice.

“Because of that, we could see it had potential to make the kind of impact they were describing.

“It deserved to be brought to life, so we decided to build it together over the course of a week.”

“Young people are among the most climate conscious groups in our society. It’s important to show them that they have the power to make a difference. And that the gap between a good idea and a product that can bring about change might be narrower than they think.”

Alison Walker

Deloitte’s 5 Million Futures Education Programme Lead

“I got a plastic bottle... and dropped it into the bin. It said ‘claim your points' and the feeling I felt was pure excitement and happiness.”

Myles, part of the Cardinal Heenan team

“The feeling I felt was pure excitement and happiness”

Not long after the team had designed it, Go Green Recycle was launched in the school canteen.

Connected to a camera and with sensors on the back, the prototype can recognise the material that’s been put in, enabling the recycler to earn points from a linked system that can lead to prizes.

The unveiling was a big deal. A queue formed to start recycling and it became clear that the product was doing what it was designed to.

“It’s amazing. It feels weird to think we created this and now hundreds of people are using it,” continues Myles.

“We learned to fall in love with the problem”

Now, pupils at Cardinal Heenan are recycling to help clean up their streets – and to win the most points and prizes.

Team Go Green Recycle have even talked about how they might roll out a version of the bin across the community.

More than that, it’s offered a new perspective on what they can do and shown the importance of testing and responding to feedback when solving design challenges.

“It isn’t just having an idea and making it instantly,” says Fynton, aged 13, also part of the team.

“We learned to fall in love with the problem not the solution.

“The best thing about this has been the opportunity and the realisation that something that starts so small can become so big, in a tiny amount of time.”


Creating a better future

The challenge set by Deloitte and Debate Mate was part of Better Futures Month, Deloitte’s annual mass volunteering initiative.

It’s just one of the ways people at Deloitte can volunteer and also includes taking part in Urban Beach Cleans and sharing skills with those thinking of starting their own business.

Having the chance to support Debate Mate with helping students pitch ideas and hone their communication skills is really popular.

And for Alison, who was part of team Go Green Recycle’s journey with Deloitte, seeing our people and the students come together and learn from each other has been the best part of the process.

“I’m not sure who’s been more inspired,” she says, “the young climate enthusiasts who created this invention they’re so passionate about – or the slightly older ones who’ve joined them on their adventure.”

“It’s clear how much they care about making the world better and making a difference on their doorstep. Listen to what they’ve got to say and tell us you don’t feel optimistic about the future!”


Video transcript

Pupil: I'm at Deloitte in London. We're gonna go inside and we're going to make our products instead of just being an idea become a reality.


Pupil: Right now we're in Deloitte's head office. It's very posh and fancy and I've had a really good time.


Pupil: There's approximately five trillion pieces of litter in the ocean, and that's not acceptable.

Pupil: We made this idea to make our streets clean. Our idea is a bin with sensors on the inside so when I put something into the bin the sensors will detect that.


Ed Greig (Chrief Disruptor, Deloitte Digital): We ran a a workshop with them to kind of develop the idea further.

Cathy Thomas (Solutions Architect, Deloitte Digital): I thought it was great that they thought about sustainability and the environment and the future, and also how enthusiastic they were about the design tasks that we set them.

Mr Fenton (English teacher and DebateMate Lead, Cardinal Heenan): Five of the boys progressed through the competition from over 300 schools, to then become finalists against another three and then to win it - they were delighted.

Pupil: Today's been amazing. We've been creating our product and we've been jotting down ideas to help make this been a possibility. It's been great.

Ed Greig: I was judging the competition and I was really impressed from the start with Cardinal Heenan's pitch.

Pupil: Deloitte brought the bin that we created into the school.

Ed Greig: "Go up to the bin. You hold up the rubbish and take a photograph of the object that you're about to throw away and then that will tell you what that is."

Pupil: Lots of classes come down to see it, putting rubbish in it. It's been a really exciting day.

Pupil: It's finally here in the real world and we've been testing out with a few students.

Ed Greig: That huge queue, it was really cool to see.

Pupil: I got a plastic bottle. The place where I scanned said it was plastic, so I dropped it into the bin. It said to claim your points now and the thing I felt was just like pure excitement and happiness.

Ed Greig: I have to say the the moment when, like, a piece of technology works is a really special feeling.

Mr Fenton: It was nerve-wracking for them but they did a fantastic job.

Pupipl: Unbelievable. Emotional, it is.

Mr Fenton: To then see that pitched product brought to fruition as a reality - it's just been a wonderful experience.

Pupil: It's amazing because it feels weird to think that we created this and people are using it now - like hundreds of people using it. It's amazing.

2023 Annual Review

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