A common fixture in cities are the “canners” who scavenge through trash for used cans and bottles. Canners are the invisible workers that help ensure that recyclable materials get reclaimed: they return the discarded containers to recycling centers for money. It is not easy, especially for new canners, to identify which containers are of value: less experienced canners waste time and energy collecting containers that are later rejected at the recycling centers. We conceived Sift as a platform that helps canners quickly figure out which containers can be returned for money in their state, while establishing a stronger connection between recycling center and canner. 

TEAM CONTRIBUTORS: Gahee Kang, Kohzy Koh









Canners, especially ones that are novice or foreign, have a difficult time identifying the cans that are eligible for redemption. 


"Some canners cannot read English. So they cannot tell perhaps that this coffee can cannot be redeemed for money. They think it is another type of drink."

— Ana Martinez de Luco, the founder of the Brooklyn redemption center Sure We Can


We interviewed canners, redemption center staff, and prototyped multiple iterations of solutions.

We visited Sure We Can, a non-profit redemption center in Brooklyn, and were able to interview both the staff and the canners. This really helped us quickly gain empathy for the canners, and understand the complex system of container redemption.


Mapping the entire system of container distribution and redemption quickly gave us a sense of how many stakeholders were involved.


We iterated first through sketching, then to increasingly higher fidelity prototypes.We knew there were several problems that canners faced: identifying cans, sorting, and counting them. We spent several weeks sketching and evaluating numerous possible directions.


One idea really stuck with us, and that was a portable scanner for canners to quickly identify whether a can was redeemable or not.


Once we had determined the best form of the scanner, we set about building a functional prototype. We 3D-printed the outer shell, and programmed the device to respond with light and sound the scanned barcodes.


*Coding credit to Kohzy Koh



We envisioned Sift as a broader system, beyond a handheld device.

More than just a handheld scanner, Sift is a broader platform that includes the canning centers as stakeholders. The distribution of scanners is done through the center. Through an easy-to-use management console and a charging strip, the center tracks their network of scanners, and updates all devices for new containers or changing state rules.