San Francisco Promotes Recycling With Green iPhone Application

San Francisco's EcoFinder iPhone application provides location-based information to help residents find the best location to recycle different materials.

by / June 23, 2009

San Francisco released EcoFinder, its first iPhone application, which locates where residents should recycle and dispose of certain materials. The application is based on a city XML feed and uses location-based software to identify a resident's closest recycling facility. It was released on June 15.

"Residents can now find out where to recycle or properly dispose of materials using our convenient, location-based mobile application," wrote Mayor Gavin Newsom on "Instead of dumping old electronics or furniture on the sidewalk, the EcoFinder iPhone app tells you where these materials should go, based on your location."

According to Lawrence Grodeska, Internet communications coordinator for the city's Department of the Environment, as of June 20, the app had been downloaded 1,400 times. "For the first week we were hoping for 1,000 downloads, and much to our delight the actual totals have surpassed our goals," Grodeska commented via e-mail.

The city also has a Web-based version of the tool posted on the Department of the Environment's Web site for residents sans iPhones. "The app has also gotten some great coverage for the Web version of the EcoFinder tool, which was a secondary goal for us since the EcoFinder is a big part of our outreach around recycling and proper disposal of toxic/hazardous materials," Grodeska wrote.

The city decided to house the EcoFinder information on an XML feed after years of storing it in a database. "The XML feed powers the online tool, and it's enabled us to work with developers or anyone who wants to use the data -- to get our data further out into the public sphere," Grodeska said.

According to Apple's App Store, EcoFinder searches for locations to properly dispose of materials like:

  • asbestos;
  • automotive materials;
  • batteries;
  • cooking oil, grease and fats;
  • furniture;
  • medical equipment;
  • toilets; and
  • toner and print cartridges.

"This iPhone app is a great example of San Francisco embracing the emerging philosophy of Government 2.0 -- using Web and mobile technologies to provide more effective processes for delivering government services," Newsom wrote.

The city has pledged to recycle 75 percent of the materials that would otherwise go to a landfill by 2010 and to create zero waste by 2020. According to information released in May, in 2008 the city prevented 72 percent of recyclable material from going to landfills.

This follows the city's other green initiatives like the San Francisco Solar Map, which is a Web-based tool that assesses residents' homes to identify how many solar panels can fit on their roofs and how much power would be generated.


Elaine Rundle Staff Writer