W3.CSS Template



Recycling Information Assistant

Derry & Strabane, UK

(028) 7125 3253

Service Skills



Bins Content


General waste





Technical Resources

Check our GitHub project

Find the code and instructions to run a chatbot



During the chatbot development process lots of data was collected and created. We are making it available for others to train their AI assistants. Check it here.

Other useful resources we created

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Benefits of the Service

More efficient customer service

The main benefit of the new Chatbot for Derry City and Strabane District council is the fact we will be able to develop more sustainable public services for remote areas through emerging technologies. A key aspect of EMERGREEN is to empower local communities from remote areas to participate in the planning processes and to help develop these new public services for greener, sustainable, and more socially inclusive regions making better use of the existing resources.

This project relates directly to Council’s Zero Waste Circular Economy Strategy. It allows us to communicate with our residents much more efficiently about their everyday household waste and how to dispose of it and reuse it in a more environmentally friendly way. We can empower our residents to make better decisions and to re-imagine their day-to-day waste.

Another advantage of the Chatbot is that we can educate the user without them asking for further information. It will allow us to regularly update and manage our content more frequently.

Better use of internal resources

By implementing new technologies like this Chatbot, we can use our internal resources much more efficiently. We can streamline the communication process between Council and residents, so they can find answers to FAQs quickly and easily, instead of having to ring our switchboard or emailing reception and having to wait for a response. In the same sense, this allows staff to concentrate on other projects and therefore use their time much more productively.

Increased engagement with specific members of the public

Service will enhance the access of our recycling and household waste to residents who live in the peripheral communities, as well as residents who live in the city and district. For those residents who might not be able to access council services as freely, they will be able to access all up-to-date information 24/7 with our new Chatbot.

Address Sustainability and Climate Change Issues

As part of our ongoing Zero Waste Circular Economy Strategy, it is important that we empower and encourage our residents to think about sustainability and climate change issues in their everyday life.

Our Chatbot allows people to find out what to do with specific products in their household. However, instead of just telling them what bin to put their waste into, we have included much more information and inspire them to reuse or repair the product before throwing it out.

Targeted Groups

Users of the Chatbot will be householders and business owners within the Derry City and Strabane District Council area. The Chatbot will provide instantaneous answers to the users out of normal office hours and in particular during holidays. The content will also not only answer their query but in some instances give them some educational tips/advice for future reference. The service will help Council monitor and review the key areas of interest, free up some staff to carry out other roles and ensure that users are getting answers to their queries when the offices are closed.

Marketing and Promotion

When our Chatbot is active and live on our new Waste and Recycling website, we will launch a marketing campaign across all Council channels both online and offline. We will use social media to encourage our residents to actively use the Chatbot for everyday advice and let them know the benefits and its capabilities.

We will also promote across ERNACT channels and will generate local press coverage. We will also promote to elected representatives and stakeholder groups including migrants, people living with disabilities, elderly and youth groups.

Development and Implementation Process

Development Process

The service involved a lot of research and data collection at the beginning in order to create a detailed knowledge base for NUI Galway to start the building process. Data was regularly monitored and tested at different stages by various test groups. Where content needed to be updated or amended, we used an online Google doc to allow for consistency and prevent duplication. The design of the Chatbot window was carried out and tested on the website platform. More testing is to be carried out ahead of the official launch as well as focus groups with stakeholder groups from the Derry City and Strabane District Council area.

The service development began with data collecting and the developers created a template to input the data. Weekly meetings were held with the developers to discuss progress, actions, and future plans. During the early stages of development, we had some internal staff members test the Chatbot with specific regards to language, tone, and the flow of the conversation as well as ensuring the information that the user received was correct. A survey was drafted prior to testing. This survey then allowed us and the developers to review any feedback and issues, which were then implemented and amended.

We appointed graphic designers to create a brand and logo for the Chatbot and ran a social media competition to allow for public engagement in the naming of the Chatbot. This proved successful and the Chatbot was named RIA. RIA stands for Recycling Information Assistant and was then incorporated into the brand design.

We then went on to have marketing collateral designed with the new logo and commissioned for animation videos to be created. These would be used for the launch and promotion of the Chatbot.

During this time, the team continued to work on completing the data collection, during which the team was expanded and more teams from the recycling and waste department got involved. They tested the Chatbot and came back with some feedback for amendments.

We contacted focus groups to carry out testing before Christmas as we had hoped to launch the Chatbot before the Christmas holidays. However, as a result of the testing, we needed to add a lot more content and tweak current information in order to ensure the Chatbot would be efficient, therefore the launch was delayed.

As well as this, we tendered for and appointed a web development company to design a new webpage, which would be the new hosting platform for the Chatbot. We had some delays with the web developer hence this further delayed the Chatbot launch.

We are currently tying up some loose ends in terms of content as there was a change to bin services and content and therefore the knowledge base needed to be updated.
Demo sessions with the North West Waste Management Group and the Northern Ireland Resource Network are also scheduled to showcase the Chatbot and its capabilities.

Technical Requirements

The Chatbot requires a server and platform such as a website to be hosted on. Users will need Wi-Fi or mobile data to access the Chatbot.

Technology Used

The Chatbot is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) used in messaging apps. This tool helps add convenience for customers—they are automated programs that interact with customers as a human would.

Challenges and Recommendations

The content gathering of the Chatbot can be very time-consuming depending on the subject or area the Chatbot is developed for. In our case, it was for the recycling and waste department. This department consists of various sub-sections and data, which, on some occasions can change in given circumstances.

There are a lot of details required for each intent such as various synonyms, questions options, taking into consideration slang words and local lingo, etc. Careful planning and setting out a detailed knowledge base template at the beginning is important, ensuring all members of the team are involved from the beginning and that they give their input and review content regularly to ensure it is correct.

The data collection and ensuring this is correct is the most time-consuming element of the development. We would advise any other local authorities who are thinking about implementing these new technologies to set out a plan/structure of what content and answers you wish to use and get as many people as possible on the team to review the different scenarios and intents, by using different terminology and colloquiums.

Testing is also crucial and allows to you pick up on errors or missing data earlier and again this will save time down the line. Try and simplify answers and keep them short and not too text-heavy and use animation/video/imagery where possible.

Focus group testing has revealed other requirements which would have been useful to know at an earlier stage including predictive text particularly for people who don’t have English as their first language and or literacy issues.

As an emerging service/platform the Chatbot technology will need consistent updating not just to match Derry City and Strabane District Council Recycling Service changes but also new knowledge in the sustainability field and technological developments.

Lessons Learnt

We would have involved other team members earlier in the development stage in terms of assisting with data gathering and monitoring the content for accuracy, etc. We did some focus group testing later in the development stage, but I think their input could have helped earlier. Therefore, have testing with focus groups in the early stages to help with the following: content, presentation, accessibility, etc.