‘Twas the 27th November, the day after Storm Arwen. We were in our homes huddled around our computer’s discussing the effects of the storm. But we couldn’t sitting around chatting all day as we had two days of hacking ahead of us at at Code the City‘s 24th hackathon (CTC24). Three projects were decided upon and teams created then off we went to start working on our projects.   

During the weekend I joined the Waste Wizards team to help plot Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC) and their facilities on Open Waste Map through updating Open Street Map

The Waste Wizards is an ongoing project which started at the CTC21 hackathon and has been added to over time. This weekend Northern Ireland, Wales and the south coast of England became areas which we looked to add more recycling information to.  

As this was my first time working on this project, the team kindly took the time to walk me through how to approach the project and the input required. It sounded at this point quite straightforward, all I had to do was find the recycling centres on council websites, go to Open Street Map and input the details which would then automatically feed through to Open Waste Map. I soon realised I was mistaken in this thought.

Looking up the locations of some recycling centres from council websites was not always straightforward. Some recycling facilities were quite difficult to find on their websites and then locating some of centres on Open Street Map was not always easy either. To assist me, the team helpfully created a query from Open Street Map which showed those Open Street Map recycling centres which had been plotted for which an ‘owner’ was missing. Once I located the owner, being the relevant council, and added this to the Open Street Map, the facilities then pulled through to Open Waste Map.

As with all projects, time was taken to think about “Who would use this?” to focus our attention on the projects requirements. A hope is that councils would take responsibility for keeping the information up-to-date on Open Street Map and Wikidata – each entry should take just a few minutes to update! From there, Open Waste Map would assist councils by scanning all HWRC and generate an Open3R response from the available data.

The team overall added a substantial number of recycling centres to Open Waste Map over the course of CTC24. An incredible amount of work has been done overall on this project by a few individuals over the course of a few weekends for free. There is still a lot more work to be done, but the project has momentum and the will of the team to keep going.  

The Code the City hackathon ran from 27th – 28th November 2021 online. Code the City is a civic hacking initiative interested in using tech and data for civic good based in Aberdeen, UK as a registered charity.