By Trevor Busch
The Town of Taber will soon be launching a new app to assist residents with waste collection.
At their April 24 meeting, council had passed a resolution directing administration to investigate the cost and feasibility of an app to assist residents. Administration researched various applications that offer this service and determined that Recycle Coach was their preferred choice.
According to administration, Leduc and Medicine Hat are municipalities that “currently use this same Canadian company, with great success.”
The app is not currently budgeted for, and would cost the Town $2,700 for 2023 (Council Discretionary Fund), $3,200 in 2024 (to be budgeted), and $3,600 in 2025 (to be budgeted). As of June 12, Council has $16,480.94 remaining in the Council Discretionary Fund.
“I love this, it’s great,” said Coun. Alf Rudd at council’s June 26 meeting. “The sooner the better.”
The Recycle Coach app is customizable to the community and waste services, and it has capabilities that go beyond simple notifications for residents, including (but not limited to):
1. “What Goes Where:” a searchable in-app database so residents can determine which items go into which carts. This also can include image recognition so the public can take a picture of their item to discover which cart it belongs to.
2. “Report-a-problem” with collection issues within the app that can be directed to the Public Works Shop (the Town also has this capability on our website, but this offers yet another easy avenue for residents to report issues with collection)
3. Website integration
4. Fun, educational public engagement that the Town can customize to gain public interest and increase participation in the waste cart system, including: Weekly “fun surveys” which asks app users quick questions to gauge their knowledge and to inform them of the answer; blog articles; kids activity packets
5. “Annual Survey” which residents can participate in to test their knowledge, which then compares our results to other municipalities
The developer also offers in-app translation services (for an additional yearly fee per language). Administration inquired about Low or High German specifically (the 2020 Census indicates German is the most commonly spoken secondary language used in Taber), but those are not currently offered. However, there is Tagalog (third most common in the census) and Spanish. Given the Town’s involvement with the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program, there are options for other languages should Administration deem the need for it in future years. Currently, the cost is an additional $200 per language, per year.
“We did specifically ask because of our Low German population in Taber, if that was one of the languages they offered. It was not, and neither was High German,” said communications coordinator Meghan Brennan. “It may come in the future, but right now German is not one of their offerings. So this year we’re not asking for any languages. We’d like to launch the app, and then we might use it as a public participation opportunity in the future to see what kinds of languages we might want to use with our AIP, with our population changing and things like that. Additionally, it’s $200 per year per language. That’s something we would like to really budget for in the future and make sure we have the correct languages. We don’t want to just buy them all.”
Administration recommended launching the app in English only for 2023 and use the in-app public engagement and feedback offerings to determine the need for additional languages future years. This will also serve to allow residents to provide feedback to help improve the app, increasing public buy-in.
“I think it’s a very minimal fee if you consider all the fees that could be proposed for applications,” said Coun. Joanne Sorensen. “I think this is great, thank you for looking into it, because I’m sure there’s maybe 100 out there to decide upon. There’s also Google Translate, it’s a great app for those that maybe need to get more information translated. So I would be in favour of this.”
The staff of the Public Works Department have already done the majority of the information compilation over the past seven years for what the app developer would need, meaning it could be launched in 2023.
“Administration is fully satisfied that this app would go above and beyond what Council initially requested and would set the Town of Taber’s waste collection service up for success for many years to come,” reads a statement from Administration. “The extra public engagement features alone offer Administration new and exciting ways to renew residents’ interest in our waste services, while still offering the same communication types (paper calendars, website, etc.) that citizens have also come to use.”
“It does way more than I expected,” said Coun. Carly Firth. “It’s awesome, I think there’s some really valuable information you’ll be able to glean from it.”
Firth, along with Coun. Jack Brewin, questioned the escalation in cost over three years from $2,700 to $3,600 in 2025.
“I’m going to say that’s a very fair assumption, (that) just based on technology, added features, things like that, it is just the cost of doing business,” answered Brennan.
Following discussion, council voted unanimously to approve $2,700 to be allocated from the Council Discretionary Fund for the purchase of the Recycle Coach Application in 2023, and directed administration to include the application’s pricing in future operating budgets.