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Student creates recycling app for Amazon Alexa

By SARA CASARETO

Living in a digital era, there are apps for everything, from managing your taxes, watching movies, meeting up with that special someone or sharing your adventures with online friends. Now, UT student Connor Zazzo, a senior communication and advertising and public relations major, has developed a skill (an app that is used with the Amazon Echo device) called Tampa Green Can, which lets people properly dispose of waste. This app enables Tampa residents to communicate with an Amazon Echo device from their phone.

“I usually try to base my class projects here at UT around the theme of recycling,” Zazzo said. “So I thought it would be useful and exciting to have an app on a new device with an upcoming market that can help those who want to recycle on campus and in Tampa, but just don’t know how.”

The app is designed to work with Amazon Echo, a “smart” speaker that syncs with a smartphone and then accepts a variety of commands, so a user can ask the Echo device any recycling questions. There will be a variety of materials to ask about, and the Echo device will then tell the user where each item can be properly disposed. If an item cannot be disposed of at home, the device, using the app downloaded onto the phone, will provide the nearby locations and directions on how to get there. Amazon Echo’s popularity has been growing drastically the past two years, according to Business Insider. The projected sales of the Amazon Echo device for 2016 was about 5.2 million worldwide.

“Connor has used his time in the class to research recycling policies and facilities in the area, research the kinds of questions people typically ask about recycling and to program the Alexa skill,” said Stephanie Tripp, chair of the department of communication. “Connor is interested in encouraging people to recycle, but he noticed as a UT student living off campus that it can be tough to figure out all of the city’s recycling rules.”  

Zazzo is creating this current app in his course, COM 475: Seminar. He began working and producing apps with Amazon Echo in the summer of 2016 while interning as a digital producer with J. Walter Thompson, an advertising company in New York City.

“This skill could absolutely be beneficial to students at the University of Tampa,” said Conrad Polys, a senior criminology major and Zazzo’s sound board for the project. “Having an easy to use means for finding the nearest applicable recycling service would eliminate the excuse of not knowing how or where to discard recyclables. Eliminating ignorance is always a step in the right direction when it comes to modern issues, and ‘Tampa Green Can’ certainly fills the role.”

Zazzo’s goal for this app is to make it easier for UT students and other Tampa residents to recycle materials more effectively. Zazzo plans on having the app released and accessible on the Amazon Alexa Skill Marketplace by March 13.

“I would like to let everyone to know if they use this Alexa skill to please let me know what they like or dislike about it in a review on the marketplace,” Zazzo said. “The more feedback I get, the better the skill will become and the easier it will be to recycle any waste.”

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