A group of Qatar Foundation (QF) educators have developed a mobile application, QKONs, which facilitates waste recycling process through digital trading for a cleaner and more sustainable future.
Dr Tareq al-Ansari, Dr Younss Ait Mou, and Sarah Namany, from the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University are the brains behind the initiative.
QKONs is aimed primarily at enhancing waste recycling as part of the ‘circular economy’ concept – where items are designed to be remade and reused rather than simply disposed of, cutting waste and pollution.
The digital waste exchange platform allows users to benefit economically from their transactions in the form of ‘rewards’, while reducing environmental impacts.
QKONs offers an added incentive as it aims to encourage users to dispose of their waste conveniently by visiting tagged bins that will be made available around QF's Education City.
Created through the HBKU Innovation Fund and supported by the Innovation Coupon – an initiative of QF Research, Development, and Innovation – QKONs is currently being tested at Education City through a pilot scheme at QF Headquarters and the Northnest and Southnest student housing complexes.
Dr al-Ansari, associate professor, Sustainable Development at CSE, says: “As a digital waste exchange platform that aims to improve waste recycling habits in Qatar, QKONs instills environmental consciousness to solve the issue of waste.
“If you are a generator of waste, through QKONs you will be able to dispose of it in the most efficient and sustainable manner. The QKONs app provides people with the location of the closest recycling bin and facilitates rewards for each transaction they perform.
“And for waste buyers or recyclers, QKONs allows them to monitor and optimise their waste collection process through providing them with access to real-life geospatial tracking of the waste, enabling them to spot areas with high waste generation and consequently enhance their recycling capacity.”
While the QKONs rewards scheme is currently being developed, the concept of the app is already encouraging people who are participating in the pilot scheme to think harder about sustainability and waste recycling. Among them is Farah El-Assadi, a QF student, who said: “Before using QKONs, I thought that waste is not segregated in Qatar and there was no logic for me to separate it at home.
“Now that I know that waste is recycled, especially plastics, I feel more motivated to take part in protecting the environment and respecting its ecosystem.”
Fellow student Fatima-Zahra Lahlou, who also uses the app, agrees, saying: “Having four different bins taking up space in my studio is finally paying off with QKONs.”
Current users can support the application’s growth by completing a short survey that will help the QKONs team fine-tune the services they provide. As Dr al-Ansari says: “Waste is one of the most pressing challenges in Qatar and the world, and recycling is one of the most commonly used techniques to sustainably manage waste and transform it into an added value product that can benefit the environment and the economy.”
While still in its pilot phase, a rollout of QKONs to the wider community is expected in the near future. As Dr Ait Mou, a software engineer at HBKU, says: “QKONs is a collective and efficient tool that sets the basis for a smart and sustainable waste management sector.”
Namany, a PhD student at CSE, summed up its benefits by saying: “Whether you are at home or working in your office, by using QKONs and disposing of your waste in the designated bins, you can become a ‘guardian’ of your community and workplace while enjoying a range of other benefits.
“This is the right time to participate in a fun way of disposing of your waste and gaining rewards as they become available. By downloading and using the app, you will be able to bring to life your empty water bottles, your cans, or your ‘scratch’ paper from university by making them available to the leading recycling firms in the country.”