Ask Alexa about recycling in East Devon

East Devon District Council has pioneered a novel way to help local residents find out everything they need to know about recycling – with Amazon Alexa.

It is believed to be the first local authority in the country to launch such an initiative.

Householders who have the Amazon virtual assistant can now ask Alexa about recycling thousands of items as well as check when collections are, report missed collections and ask for new recycling containers. Alexa’s answers are tailored to the resident’s address.

People who want to use the high-tech service must live in the council’s catchment area and begin their question with the message ‘Alexa, ask East Devon District Council…’ followed by the relevant recycling or waste question.

If you don’t have an Amazon device, you can download the Amazon Alexa app to your smartphone and ask the same questions.

The council says: “This latest initiative breaks new ground in the way that the council keeps its residents informed about this important service, and it’s believed the council is the first in the country to use the Amazon Alexa to help its residents recycle more.”

Many Alexa devices are found in the kitchen which, according to experts, is the best place to be when deciding on how to recycle household goods such as tins, paper, glass and plastic bottles. All you have to do is ask Alexa how to recycle a particular item and it will provide you with a ready answer.

Councillor Geoff Jung, East Devon’s portfolio holder for the environment, said that the council is using every way it can to help its residents recycle more and waste less.

Amazon Alexa and innovation

He said: “As more people use devices such as smart phones and Alexas, it makes sense that we use digital technology to give our residents as much information, in as many ways that are accessible to them, as possible. We need to use all the innovative methods at our disposal and we hope that the ‘Ask East Devon District Council’ Alexa skill is a good example of such an approach.”

“This doesn’t mean however that we are ignoring the traditional ways of keeping our residents informed. Far from it! The council will continue to drop leaflets through doors, hold roadshows and community events and make sure every property gets a bin hanger at Christmas to pass on our seasonal collection dates and give advice on how to continue to recycle during the festive period.”

Last month, the council won a national ‘best new idea’ award for creating the Alexa recycling skill and for its popular East Devon mobile App which has more than 20,000 subscribers and is the most used citizen app in the country. The accolade was awarded by the national Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee.

For recycling information, the East Devon App can send residents useful reminders ahead of their collections, as well as telling them which collection is due, what can go in each bin and making adjustments for bank holiday collection. It provides a wide range of other features too, from planning applications to councillor information and news about food hygiene rates for local food outlets.

Last year, the council issued more than 1 million customised recycling and waste reminders to residents who asked for them via the App. The award comes just a few weeks after East Devon households were crowned the best recyclers in Devon as they recycled 59 per cent of their waste in 2018/19.

Although the district has an excellent recycling success rate, Cllr Jung says there’s no room for complacency.

He added: “Having raised our recycling rate considerably, we recognise that our current challenge is to support our residents to consume less, make lifestyle choices which reduce or avoid waste and encourage re-use of materials before recycling in order to help our district meet the climate change challenge.”

Additional information about the Alexa East Devon skill is available at: https://eastdevon.gov.uk/recycling-and-rubbish/ask-east-devon-district-council-alexa-skill

The East Devon App, which will send reminders about recycling and waste collection days and is also tailored to your own address, is free and is available to download from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

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