My company creates solutions for waste management facilities. One particular piece of software is used on touch screens at the entrance of a facility. The municipiality runs the facility. We don't influence much how the facility is run.

The customers can deliver many fractions of waste, ranging from old paint to construction materials. Most of these Some of these have a cost per kilo, while others are free, and therefore we weigh the cars in and out. On the way in, the customer has to select what fraction represents the majority of his waste (and I've realized through the discussing that this sentence is a great source of confusion)

Here are the fractions that a customer can typically choose between:

  • Pure garden waste (typically delivered on Saturdays): free
  • Pure dangerous waste (paint, oil etc): free
  • Pure electrical waste: free
  • Mixed waste: cost
  • "Pure mass" (stones, dirt etc): cost

Many customers select "Garden waste" as their main fraction, although their trunk is full of mixed waste.

So my question is this: How can I encourage honest user behavior in the UI? I could hide away the free fractions - but that would make the UI worse for those customers who are honest.

Currently we solve this by letting an operator approve any free fraction selection.

Process description

Here is a simplified description of the inbound waste delivery process:

Facility overview

The facility has four lanes. The two rightmost lanes are inbound and the two left are outbound. In the middle of the lanes, there is a small building with two operators.

enter image description here

The operators serve one inbound and one outbound lane. At times there is heavy traffic and the two operators are quite busy serving requests, either directly or via the the audio links to each payment tower.

Please select fraction

When the customer drives onto the weight, the gate behind him closes and a welcome screen displays: "Please register your payment card". The next screen lets him choose a waste fraction:

Updated screenshot of fraction selection

Please drive inside the facility

The gate in front of the customer opens and he can drive inside the facility.

One solution could be to automatically photograph each car on the way in, and then attach the photos to the order, but the customer didn't want to have all its customers photographed.

We deliver software and hardware. The municipiality runs the facility. We don't influence much how the facility is organized. We just try to make the municipality's dream come true with technology.

Here are some nice photos of the facility:

Addressing questions

There are many great questions and suggestions, and I find the comment feature of SE hard to follow. Therefore I've repeated the questions and my comments here. I am amazed at your interest and level of involvement with my question. Kudos to you!

  1. Does the operator inspect the waste in the car? Do users have an account or license plate that identifies them as repeat customers? It would help if you described the whole process (workflow) - tohster

    The operator does not inspect the waste in each car. Any citizen are potential customers. The description has been updated to describe the process further.

  2. I know you don't want to penalise honest users, but could you not just charge for garden waste? If it's all mixed waste it still needs to be sorted which incurs cost, and if isn't sorted it is either sent to landfill or for incineration and neither or those options benefit from it being garden waste over any other sort of waste. Also, by making the 'green waste' option free to dispose of the facility is surely encouraging those with more expensive and harmful waste to dispose of it elsewhere (maybe somewhere more harmful for the environment)? - Chris

    It's not my call to make the garden waste free. It's political. Besides, a lot of people deliver legitimate free waste (that is pure and sorted). I want to handle those who deliver construction materials but press the "garden waste" button.

    According to the operators at the facility, people press "Hageavfall privat" (Garden waste private) because all of them are trying to exploit the system, while I think they do so because they are confused. Most likely it's somewhere in between, and a lot probably press the button because "pick the one you've got most of" is confusing in its nature. Or maybe the users simply press the garden waste button because they know it's free and they think nobody will realize the mistake.

    Fun fact: In Norway any citizen can deliver up to 1000 kg of free dangerous waste (paint, chemicals etc). Landfills were banned in 2009. All waste is either recycled or burned in controlled environments for energy production.

  3. Have you looked into the idea of a "Selecting the wrong waste type is against the law. If found guilty, you could be fined $$$$." but in more succinct, passive-authoritative measures? Like announcing to train, store and other customers that there are plain clothed officers onboard all locations (there isn't) - insidesin

    We have looked into this. However, it challenges the idea of having a simple and clean UI - and as others have addressed, adding shallow warnings don't influence much the dishonest customers. Also, we don't want to start out wrong by assuming all customers are planning to exploit the system (which is in effect what we would do, as everyone would see the warning)

    Also, I strive to keep the UI simple and clean. Most drivers are already quite stressed as they enter the facility, and having them read more text won't ease their situation. Keep in mind that I love the honest customers. I want to use some kind of dark pattern in a way that encourages honest behaviour while not cluttering the UI.

  4. Why don't you put some orwellian iconography by the 'garden waste private' button like a CCTV camera? That way you'd be suggesting that they're being watched and if they lie you'll find out. Sounds crazy, but if you want something dark and subtle you could do that....and put smiley faces or something less offensive by the paid options - Chris

    Nice one :-) I believe images/icons are a great way to influence the mind of the user.

  5. Once a citizen enters the facility, where do they actually dump their waste? If the waste disposal area is divided up by type of waste, you could limit access based on what they selected as their waste type(s). For example, issue a receipt with the selections on it and perhaps a bar code for each type of waste. They can only enter an area if they have it on their receipt. If they have batteries, they have to select batteries to dump in the batteries area, etc. – Joel Garfield

    Nice suggestion Joel. However, that would complexify the solution much. When the customers enter the facility, they are lead through a path of many containers, one for each waste type. Everybody gets access to the entire facility.

  6. Choose what you have the most of? What determines "more"? Yard waste will be lighter, but take up more room. I have 1 truckload of mostly yard waste... 2x5 gallon buckets of paint that weigh more than the yard waste... and 3 boxes of batteries. I have "More" containers of batteries. I have "More" weight in paint. I have "more" cubic footage of yard waste, because grass clippings are "light". What do I select? How can I "dishonestly" select something that is that ambiguous? If I have to choose in that situation, why wouldn't I choose the definition that best suits me? – WernerCD

    You are correct. The sentence is inviting confusion. It originally came from the facility and in reality asks this:

    "We realize your trailer or trunk probably contains a mix of different waste. Some of these are free to deliver, but most cost (a little) per kilo. We can only weigh your car pluss trailer once, and therefore we want to know which fraction makes the majority of your waste"

    However, in reality 90 % of citizens come with a mix that qualifies to the fraction called "Mixed waste". As I've addressed in question 2, any citizen can deliver dangerous waste for free, so we are really trying to distinguish between a very few fractions like:

    • Pure garden waste (typically delivered on Saturdays): free
    • Pure dangerous waste (paint, oil etc): free
    • Pure electrical waste: free
    • Mixed waste: cost
    • "Pure mass" (stones, dirt etc): cost
  7. As wise man once said, you shouldn't try to solve a strictly psychological problem with engineering - and I concur. Real ("working", i.e. providing desired & consistent results) honesty can't be encouraged by neither smart UI nor any other kind of engineering, the very same way you can't design a law in a way that will make people more compassionate or intelligent. With engineerings you can only force things, not thoughts nor emotions. It's the users sole decision will they be honest or not - trying to manipulate user's emotions will usually backfire at you sooner or later. – vaxquis

    This sounds like great wisdom, and I believe you are illuminating truth from one angle. However, we know that dark patterns work and I believe they can be used in a white hat fasion.

  8. So what happened, what did the customer do? Okay- I asked the project manager today, and he said they have done the wonderful thing of implementing a feature that lets the people in the control "house" confirm or reject each time a customer picks a free fraction.

    It's kind of sad, but not really surprising.

    I hope the suggestions in this thread will spark interest and help others, even if none of the ideas have been implemented by the customer yet.

  • 1
    Does the operator inspect the waste in the car? Do users have an account or license plate that identifies them as repeat customers? It would help if you described the whole process (workflow)
    – tohster
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 6:09
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    Choose what you have the most of? What determines "more"? Yard waste will be lighter, but take up more room. I have 1 truckload of mostly yard waste... 2x5 gallon buckets of paint that weigh more than the yard waste... and 3 boxes of batteries. I have "More" containers of batteries. I have "More* weight in paint. I have "more" cubic footage of yard waste, because grass clippings are "light". What do I select? How can I "dishonestly" select something that is that ambiguous? If I have to choose in that situation, why wouldn't I choose the definition that best suits me?
    – WernerCD
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 15:44
  • 6
    as wise man once said, you shouldn't try to solve a strictly psychological problem with engineering - and I concur. Real ("working", i.e. providing desired & consistent results) honesty can't be encouraged by neither smart UI nor any other kind of engineering, the very same way you can't design a law in a way that will make people more compassionate or intelligent. With engineerings you can only force things, not thoughts nor emotions. It's the users sole decision will they be honest or not - trying to manipulate user's emotions will usually backfire at you sooner or later.
    – user40156
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 20:07
  • 2
    Is there a reason why you need to select among the multiple trash categories? I would put just two options "I will sort my waste myself (free)" and "I have mixed waste (cost)". This tells the user what they need to do if they want to get a free pass, and those who do not want to sort will recognize that the money is paid for the convenience they gain.
    – jpa
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 6:58
  • 2
    I'd recommend erading books by Dan Ariely, namely The Honest Truth About Dishonesty and Predictably Irrationaly - they will give you appreciable insight into this topic and will guide you very well when designing UX to support honest and predictable behavior.
    – Pavel
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 9:01

17 Answers 17


This is a constrained behavioral design problem


  • It's similar, but not identical to, a tragedy of the commons problem where participants are able to use and potentially exhause a common resource (in this case, free disposal for garden waste).

  • This is not a problem a UX can solve without broader systemic design, but UX can make a difference.

  • You are constrained by laws, business rules, and resources so typical solutions like inspecting each car may not be available to you.

  • If you really care about this problem and want to do some research, it may help to read about typical approaches for dealing with commons problems. Then you can brainstorm specifically about each approach. I will try to do this in the answer here.

  • In short, these are the typical approaches (non-exclusive):

    1. Penalties
    2. Incentives
    3. Constraints
    4. Cooperation

Design approaches

1. Penalties

  • These include approaches like inspecting and fining cars in violation. This can also be automated...for example you are already registering payment cards so you can track usage by payment card and issue an inspection warning if the same card is used repeatedly for many "garden waste" disposals.

2. Incentives

  • These approaches attempt to encourage the correct behavior by using implicit or explicit incentives.
  • For example, an explicit incentive might be to print a lottery number every time users pay for disposal. Users are automatically entered into a lottery for some reward. This may provide extra incentive for users to pay, and the system might "pay for itself" because a small increase in the number of paying users can cover the cost of the reward. Other approaches might be to print a coupon for users to download free music, etc.
  • An implicit incentive might be something like moral suasion. This is close to your desire to promote more "honest" behavior through stimulating the civic and moral instincts with users.
  • Implicit incentive approaches might include:

    • Use pictures instead of text with buttons. This makes the content more relatable to users, so it can encourage honesty because it's easier to lie when clicking a button with just text than when clicking a button with a picture of garden waste that clearly looks nothing like what you are carrying.

    use picture buttons

    • Communicate the benefits of making the right selection. e.g.
    • Your payments help Norway recycle 99% of its waste every year (civic pride)
    • We operate on a trust code because we believe in our citizens (moral obligation)
    • Your payments help us turn waste into clean, renewable energy and resources (environmental stewardship)
    • Your payments help eliminate landfill and preserve the beauty of Norway (national pride)

3. Constraints

  • These approaches involve erecting barriers to dissuade bad behavior or guide users towards good behavior.
  • Examples include:

    • Confirmation dialog for free disposal. e.g. if user selects garden waste, a confirmation dialog with a picture of garden waste pops up with a message (e.g. "Please confirm that your trash is at least 50% garden waste"). This is deliberate UX friction introduced in order to provide the user a second chance to reconsider lying.
    • Placing the garden waste button last. This can help encourage users to read the other options before they see the garden waste options.
    • Diminishing the indication of what is paid versus free. This helps focus user attention correctly on the content of the waste rather than the price. In some similar interfaces, companies have even controversially eliminated the price altogether until the next page.

    enter image description here

4. Cooperation

  • This approach promotes cooperation between users themselves and/or between users and the vendor.
  • Some examples might be:
    • Place the garden waste bin in a highly visible location where other users in the facility will be able to see what is being dumped, so there is better cooperative transparency and accountability. A Garden waste only sign may help.
    • When the user makes a selection in the UX, flash it prominently on a screen so the car(s) behind the user can also see the content. Knowing that other users are aware of what you've declared can help guide behavior. I don't personally like this option, but am including it because you may be able to brainstorm less drastic variants on this behavioral pattern.
    • Communicate the cooperation between your facility and the user. For example, you may want to humanize the team at the facility, have them stop by to say hi to users, etc. Users are less likely to lie when they feel they have a relationship with the facility.

Some of these suggestions are UX related, and some are more general. My goal here is not only to provide some specific UX suggestions for you, but also to provide a framework and behavioral themes you can use to brainstorm more specific UX solutions tailored for your facility, since you know the legal, resource, and business constraints far better than any of us.

Good luck, I'm a huge fan of your country's approach to waste.

  • 1
    i don't think pushing the price until the next page is a problem at all. After all, the users already have deposited their waste, they are probably ready to pay the price for that.
    – njzk2
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 3:17
  • 15
  • 2
    Than you so much for a knowledgable and informative answer. There will be a new project meeting in two weeks, and then I am sure we will implement some or more of the suggestions. Also very interesting to get to know the term <b>tragedy of the commons</b>. I will keep you posted.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 6:55
  • 4
    Amazing answer! Multiple solutions from multiple points of view, each one reinforcing the others. It's kind of answers I would see every day here. Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 10:51
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby Oh great - haven't thought about electric fences at all! Be right back... :) Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 15:00

The point with these kinds of things, where you rely on customer honesty, is twofold. First to make the honest route easy. Second to make the easiest route as honest as possible.

I would radically change the process and divide it in to two steps.

First step/screen

Are you delivering:

☑ Chemicals . . . . . . . . ☑ Construction waste

☐ (Scrap) Metal . . . . . . ☑ Garden materials

Last step/screen

Show them a simple bar chart:enter image description here

which by default shows an even spread of delivered. This could use different algorithms;

  • simplest - divide by payment categories (my example)
  • medium complex - divide by type of waste (in this case it'd be 2,3,2 so 29%, 42%, 29%)
  • most complex - also take in to account how much of a type usually gets brought (batteries = little, leaves = lots) you could base this on average statistics from

And then show either categories ticked and have users specify what types of waste they have, or (like in the example) just have an organized list of all types and have every type of each category ticked and users can untick them.

At any rate, users can then modify this to what they actually deliver. They still CAN cheat by saying they´re dropping 95% leaves, but it adds a physical and a mental hurdle. If they're honest and modify, all the better. If they're lazy, you should still get (on average over all visitors) get a decent balance of what has been delivered.

This is just a rough sketch, of course, and there are a bunch of other varieties you can try, too. For example, first choose paid things + [none of these], then free stuff, so they're less inclined to say just leaves when they have both leaves and paint. Or you could have the first page just be an organized list on which the user ticks all the items they have and then the system sorts that into categories and uses 'medium complex' algorithm.

I've gone back and forth in my mind on which is better; ask categories and then specialize (more open to abuse?) or ask types and then categorize (might overlook something and can be confusing), but the rough concept is this: - obfuscate difference between paid/free items - make dishonesty cost more effort than average - get the most 'accuracy' in the least possible interaction.

  • 12
    This is what I initially thought of too. I think it makes much more sense to charge as a fraction than to just say 'what's the majority of the load?' I think people would adjust the slider values almost compulsively, trying to get it as accurate as they can. Just picking the majority feels almost like punishing them for being honest, and will tempt even the most saintly.
    – Dan
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 19:01
  • Thank you so much for your elaborate answer. One major issue is that we want to keep the UI as simple as possible. We have two parallel inbound lanes, and on Saturdays and other intensive days, the queue goes "all the way to the highway" despite the UI already being very responsive and quick. We don't mind a few mistakes, but we want to encourage as many correct registrations as possible.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 7:05
  • 9
    To me, a series of yes/no checkboxes IS a vast amount simpler than asking me to make a value judgement on which of my load is "most" (by what measure?), and whether I should have done it in two trips to save money. Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 20:17
  • 1
    I value your view @DewiMorgan. What makes me think Dan's suggestion complexifies the UI also has to do with the touch screens. They can and is being used with gloves - and the trade-off is that accuracy goes down. When I re-read my original question, I realize that I could have worded it much better.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 5:51
  • 1
    The major complexification is the second step, really: the checkboxes are super-simple and intuitive, but the next page isn't, so much :( And I don't see a way to simplify that one, even though it's just two draggables. Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 6:25

Could a video camera feed of the car be included in the UI? This may encourage users to think that they are being watched, even if no footage is actually kept and inspected.

  • 2
    I think it would have that effect, but would probably also make most people grumpy. I know it would bother me.
    – Dan
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 18:55
  • 3
    We have already suggested to have a camera photograph the car from above, as to provide documentation for the professional customers. Many of the professionals have people deliver waste from different projects, and this would be a nice feature for them. However, the policy at the facility is "trust first" and they don't want to walk that road.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 7:07
  • 2
    Ok. How about giving users the OPTION to see a video feed of themselves. You might find that the existence of the words 'show video feed' on the UI are enough to nudge users into thinking about the possibility that they could be watched; and about whether they are being honest. As I've seen in an experimental situation, sometimes the psychology of word cues is very very subtle.
    – PhillipW
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 7:56
  • 1
    Another factor is complexity. Introducing a video feed is not something we'd do just to encourage honesty. It would have to be a bonus feature aside of the original intention - which would be to provide documentation for professional customers.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 10:07
  • It doesn't need to be a live video feed. A photocamera icon shown with the free choices may already hint at "if you want the free option, we may check if you are eligible."
    – MSalters
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 15:49

Even if I don't have any garden waste to take to the waste management facilities what is stopping me offering to take some for someone else and therefore having 51% of the load being garden waste?

Do you care about volume or mass when doing the charging? Most users will not know what the mass is of the different types of waste they have in their car.

What if I make my garden waste take up more space by not chopping it up as much?

It is not UI problem but more general business process problem, the charging system does does not make sense.

I think you need to wight the cars AFTER the free fraction has been removed, and have CCTV to make it less likely that the wrong items will be placed in the free fraction containers.

  • 1
    You are right when you say it's not an UI problem. Introducing more weighing goes against the efficiency of the delivery process.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 7:09

Could the system be turned 180 so they are assumed to be carrying "mixed" unless shown otherwise, and pay at the exit?

So, you come in, you take stuff to the people who would be charging you to sort, they look and see whether sorting is needed, and either start sorting, or give you a voucher to use instead of payment at the exit and wave you on.

  • 1
    Excellent suggestion. That's something we are going suggest. Basic sorting is done by the customer. Everything else goes into a large container which is either being burnt for energy productin or sorted using an automated off site facility.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 6:26

It is not UI problem but more general UX/business process organization. I see two steps here

  1. Customer should determine "majority" of the waste.
  2. Customer should honestly choose this type of waste.

As the step one is poorly formalized customer always has incentive to choose the most beneficial. Say, driver has 40% of Garden waste and 60% of other type, by categorizing the remaining part in two categories 30%/30% the Garden waste become the largest part which customer can honestly choose. Second issue choosing the right type of waste is basically gamble with always positive outcome: in the worst case scenario customer will not be allowed to go with wrongly marked type, but there is no penalty (except customer self image degradation which can be offset by any minor tensions with your company like longer than expected waiting time or even customer bad mood) for doing this, so this type of behaviour is the best for customer.

Keeping this in mind I see several ways of improvement on the UI level:

  1. Increase "friction" for free option, it can be less obvious and visible placement (not good) or some additional steps.
  2. Make special notes about any kind of "punishment" even subjective, symbolic and potential (like notice about selective inspection with live inspector looking into you eyes).
  3. Support honest behaviour by inventing some perks-awards. They could be quite symbolic.
  4. Make communication, look and feel less formal and more human.
  5. And finally make it clear how to determine waste type.
  • 1
    Thanks for the suggestion. I believe you're right. I think we can increase the success rate also by removing the "Pick the one you have most of"-sentence, as it is really not what we are after. You can drive many rounds, delivering one fraction each time, if you like, but most customers bring either a pure fraction - or they bring a mix - and they have to pay for mixes.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 10:01

One major problem I see: What defines "most"/"more of"?

Sample scenario, I have:

  • 1x large trashbag of grass clippings.
  • 2x 5 gallon buckets of paint.
  • 3x boxes of batteries.

I have "More" containers of batteries.
I have "More" weight in paint.
I have "More" cubic footage of yard waste.

What do I select? How can I "dishonestly" select something that is this ambiguous? If I have to choose in that situation, why wouldn't I choose the definition that best suits me?

By weight: I have 85% paint, 10% clippings, 5% batteries...
By "space used": I have 80% clippings, 15% paint, 5% batteries...
By "cost": Batteries cost more to recycle so 70%, 30% paint and 0% clippings (free!)

By definition, hands down, people will choose the result that best suits them - aka costs them the least.

Therefore, I think this is, in large part, a definition problem which needs to be solved before you can fix the user screen layout.

addendum: While the question does mention "weight" (Weighing vehicle before and after), I think this is still a large issue. Relying on #RandomIdiot to correctly - much less honestly - say "500 pounds? 95% of that was yard waste, 5% was lead batteries" is sketchy (Because that 5% lead batteries will probably provide over 50% of the weight). Every place I know measures the items individually because it removes the chances of bad eyesight/incorrect judgement/dishonesty.

(The places I've dealt with before are more "We pay you by weight", and have different prices on Copper, Iron, Aluminum, etc. The same rules apply. Imagine running a business where someone brings in 100 pounds of aluminum ($2/pound) and iron (10c/pound) and tells you it's 50/50. Have fun balancing your books at the end of the day when its 10%/90% and you spent $105 for something that's worth $29 (made up maths are fun :))

  • Here's a hint: the cars get weighed. Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 16:05
  • I've realized the "most of" sentence is a large confuser. However, according to the operators at the facility, people choose garden waste instead of mixed waste because they are deliberately exploiting the system. I don't think that bad of people, so for now I choose to go for the "it's too confusing". Also check out the updated screenshot.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 7:12
  • Businesses generally operate on thin profit margins. So any mistakes - accidental or purposeful - are major. You are basically giving the customer the power of "How much should I charge you?" when you say "How much of what you brought in is free and how much is $x/pound?". Assume people are honest, ignoring purposeful mistakes. Simply focus on the basic math skills involved and how easy it will be to make mistakes that will cost your business money. The only real answer to this question will involve removing the power from customers and putting it back into the hands of the business.
    – WernerCD
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 13:40
  • Simply answer this: How long can your company last with my above Aluminum/Copper analogy (even though the numbers aren't accurate nor do we discuss the weight/volume differences)? I would be surprised if ANY company could last buying scrap while relying on customers to basically guess percentages. I'm surprised this business decision made it past discussion, much less into practice. I know this doesn't touch on UX/psychology at all, because its problems start WAY before human honesty. You can't fix a business problem with a re-engineered screen.
    – WernerCD
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 13:45

This is not an UX issue. Your UX cannot make up for the fail of the facility's/municipality's approach towards payment.

The problem with honesty is that it does work both ways. If I deliver multiple categories on a Saturday, each of them pure (a heavy bucket of dirt in the trunk, and a matching load of garden waste on the trailer), I would neither want to pay for both, nor would I want to queue twice. So I select "garden waste" and I am through with it. And since it works so well, next time I come with more dirt and less garden waste, and I still select "garden waste"...

I don't know about the location and layout of the facility, but perhaps the facility could try how it works to set up a pure garden waste container OUTSIDE the monitored area, which is opened on Saturdays (and other times of high traffic). This would help greatly to solve the long queue issue.

  • No one would be such a litterbug to put down his gravel in the garden waste container, since on Saturdays there would always be someone (concerned citizen, not necessarily staff) around that container.
  • The honest people can put down their garden waste OUTSIDE the facility and then drive in (or vice-versa), paying only for the dirt/stone they deliver.
  • Some people wouldn't have to queue up at all.
  • You could allow the staff to disable the "garden waste" selection on days when the external garden waste container is open. (the same button should enable a flashy "<- garden waste disposal" sign)
  • The containers for other free categories can possibly be monitored by a scale: if someone selects "chemicals", drops off 400kg of waste, but between his drive-in and drive-out, only 20kg of chemicals were dropped off, you can charge him.

In the long run you would need two separate areas, one for the free and one for the costly waste.

  • Nice approach. I don't know if it's possible due to space constraints, but I will definitely suggest this to the project team.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 7:45

Just as a thought, if you knew how many times somebody had come to the facility, you could display something like:

You have deposited [garden|mixed|..] type waste [n] times in the past [m] months

It makes it clearer to the person doing the dumping that you are aware of how often they are coming. If they already feel a little guilty about doing whatever it is they're doing, that might be enough to push them towards honesty.

On the flip side, you could also say something like:

This year you have contributed [k] krone to helping protect the environment

which is a nice way of letting the person know why they should pay. Nobody wants to see

This year you have contributed 0 krone to helping protect the environment.

Doubt it'd make a huge improvement, but along with some of the other suggestions here (pictures, appealing to people's sense of civic pride, etc) they might add up to being quite effective.

Thanks for posting this, by the way - really interesting problem! Norway is a mega-cool country. I'd move there in an instant if it wasn't for the price of beer ;)

  • Thanks for the comments and suggestion. I compile all the suggestions down to a simple list that I am sure we will implement. Thanks for the nice comment about Norway. I will post the actual implementation, to enrich the question. A lot of people in Norway brew their own beer. Or you can drink water from any stream. It's free :-)
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 9:43
  • @nitech: So what is the actual implementation? :) Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 21:08
  • Haha, I'll let you guess ;-) up until now, they've done zero, zap, nada. I compiled all of your beautifully interesting suggestions and handed them over, but nothing has happened. I will however ask my colleague tomorrow if there is any improvement on the honesty issue ;-)
    – nitech
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 22:17
  • 1
    Okay- I asked the project manager today, and he said they have done the wonderful thing of implementing a feature that lets the people in the control "house" confirm or reject each time a customer picks a free fraction. It's kind of sad, but not really surprising. I hope the suggestions in this thread will spark interest and help others, even if none of the ideas have been implemented by the customer yet.
    – nitech
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 13:29

Your language is fundamentally flawed. For one thing, if i can have more than two types of waste, i might not have the "majority" be any one type. For another, the term "choose waste fraction" is just nonsensical.

I suspect that even with the wording clarified, though, the game theory problem will remain, and your best bet for honesty will be to either have the operator decide what it is (still invites gaming by the operator based on how much they like the customer) or at least having the customer make the decision without cost information on the screen.

You also might try randomizing the order of the buttons on the screen, for a time, and looking at which spots people are most likely to press, and put the buttons they otherwise might avoid (high cost buttons) in those places.

You also might add messaging about how if there's dangerous waste, you need to know so that it can be dealt with properly; having a sense of duty to admit to dangerous or electrical waste might add to the likelihood of selection.

  • Thank you for your honesty. Not as an excuse, but to elaborate on the background; let me add that the original language is Norwegian. The english version is there for the immigrant workers.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 6:02
  • 3
    "Choose waste fraction" is definitely a confusing phrasing. The word "fraction" specifically refers to a numerical construction, like this: ¼ ½ ¾ A better way to phrase it, without changing the UI otherwise, would be: Choose waste type Pick the one you have the most of. Not sure? Choose "Mixed Waste". Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 21:14
  • Thanks Dan. I will suggest "Choose waste type" instead of "...fraction".
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 11:42

Great question with some great answers. A few more options to explore:

  • Incentivise the paid options with a bonus scheme. Advise the client to form a relevant partnership with a local business. Here in the UK there are many such partnerships. Buy anything from WHSmith and you get a voucher for a cheap meal at nearby McDonalds on your receipt. Buy anything from the many retailers in the Nectar group and get points, which can then be used as money in the same retailers. You get the idea.

  • Force all users to go through the payment process, even with a total of 0.00. It can help to reinforce the notion that although some products or services are free, the underlying system is a commercial enterprise that costs money to run.

  • Provide different coloured receipts for the different options, making it easy to identify what the customer says they've got both immediately and from far away.

  • Focus intensely on the environmental angle. I really like the idea of positive, relatable fun facts in the answer at the top here. Also offer an optional donation to a charity sponsored by the organisation. You can then offer the donation option to the free customers, giving a single plausible reason for running them through the payment process and also appealing to them from a humanitarian perspective.

  • 1
    It's one of the more interesting posts I've seen on SE lately, so thank you and every one else!
    – Dom
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 15:36

One option which might help is to provide additional information, based on the answers given.

For instance, at my local recycling facility, I often end up missing the drop off point for one type of waste while looking for another and have to do a second circuit of the facility to get to the correct place for that part of the load. If I were able to say what I was carrying and it provide me with the order I should look for the bays, I wouldn't suffer this problem.

Providing a map or route around the facility optimised for the goods in the vehicle might add just enough added value that people would be prepared to pay for the convenience of it.

This could potentially be extended to a web based pre-registration, which could tell you what to load in the vehicle first to last in last-in-first-out order, which could reduce the time spent at the entrance to the facility, inside the facility and potentially also at the exit of the facility (if you can also pre-pay).

  • That was actually a part of the initial mockup: When the customer had selected his main waste type, the "good bye" screen said something like "drive to container A2", followed by a simple map indicating where A2 was located within the facility. It was not implemented due to time constraints. But now that you brought it back to mind, I will propose it again. Thanks Mark.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 5:45

No amount of dishonesty on your part will make other people honest.

However, we know that dark patterns work and I believe they can be used in a white hat fashion.

-not twice on the same person (and if I figured out that you did, I'd sandbag my next load out of spite).

The people you're having the problem with are your return customers, who have learned where the 'free' dumpster is (a free dumpster is the real problem). You can adjust the UI to better suit the noobs but that'd probably make it even easier for those in the know to fake it.

There's no way around needing an inspection. The iron scrapyard I go to has cameras and employes (with radios) all over the place, and when you head to the office to get paid, don't be surprised if you come to find that you were docked on your net weight for a load of mattresses.

You also weigh-in and weigh-out. If this company isn't doing that, I don't know how or where they're getting the numbers from.

  • You are right about repeat customers. That's probably the ones who lure the system. I've noted down the need for more meta about the problematic customers. As I've pointed out in previous comments, I feel the need to stress that we're not really talking about a normal business here. The municipality finance the waste management through a yearly tax. The money paid during waste delivery accounts only for a certain percentage of the costs. That's also how they can finance free fractions.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 6:06

It is well known that, in many cultures (especially America), a symbol of authority anywhere near the UI will inspire honesty. An official looking seal on the UI would likely lead to more honest users.

  • 1
    Interesting. Although I believe you, I would appreciate a link that elaborates the statement
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 5:42
  • Helps London, Singapore and a lot of other larger cities.
    – insidesin
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 14:27

Use reputation (It worked for stackoverfow).

Create some kind of frecuent client card or database. You can use the plate from the vehicle for example. Frecuent and honest clients could benefit from discounts and less control. And they are already familiar with the rules. They only need to be scanned randomly but if they are discovered cheating they might lose the discounts and will return to the usual checks.

One problem might be that one car might belong to a company and different drivers might have different levels of honesty but usually it goes with the culture.

Separate the free zone from they paid zone

It seems that it will be helpfull to weight the car before and after entering. But if the car has a mix of free and paid wastes the measurement wont have any sense. It certainly make it more complex but free waste customer won't need to enter into the "paid zone". And paid waste customers will be better controlled.


Do all the options need to appear on the one screen? If you had one screen with the options of "Mixed Waste" and "Other/Not mixed" (possibly utilising images like tohster suggested); then you could make those two buttons bigger and easier to hit and make most people take the lazy way out and select mixed all the time.

  • This was suggested by the facility. I don't want to hide stuff away, but I agree it would be effective on impulse tapping.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 5:45
  • @nitech -Ah, so the facility wants to go black hat. The people in the know will NOT be too lazy to hit the three or four more buttons that (their friends warned them about and told them what to "hit when you get there"), which are in their way of the free dumpster. Your accepted answer is good advice for inspiring honest people to be honest. Let's keep it clean ;)
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 5:51
  • I don't think the facility distinguishes between black and white hat. Most clients just want things to work, they don't have the tools to dig deeper into the underlying user experience. That's why they hire us, right?
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 7:02

Whenever there's a choice to be made that can affect financial consequences, people can and will attempt to game it.

What my local public waste disposal facility does, is make everything that requires payment a separate fenced section of the park, and everything that's free is in another part of the park. If you have paid materials to dispose of, you need to get rid of those first through the fenced-off part. Your car is weighed, and everything that requires payment is priced the same. After you dispose of the waste, your car is weighed again, and based on the difference in weight, you are charged when exiting the fenced section.

I don't know if this is a viable solution for you, since you can't affect the park layout much.

  • Your comment wall nicely in line with other good suggestions. I won't say the facility never will change layout based on our suggestions, just that layout is not a part of our area of responsibility right now. However, I will include the suggestion. It'll be great for other, planned facilities.
    – nitech
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 5:26

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