Image credit: Flickr user Tokyo 3839 under creative commons license

Last weekend, I wrote a piece speculating on some of the uses of Alexa inside restaurants. If the Waste Guru skill is any indication, getting Alexa integrated into restaurants might be tougher than I thought.

Based in the Bay Area, Zabble, Inc., started off as a consulting firm to help restaurants reduce waste. Co-Founder Nik Balachandran said he got tired of getting texts and calls from clients wondering which bin the yogurt container goes in and other small questions from befuddled restaurant workers. So he built the Waste Guru skill for the Amazon Echo to let Alexa answer those questions.

Once enabled, Waste Guru let people in the back of the house at restaurants ask Alexa how different items should be sorted for trash or recycling. Waste disposal can be tricky for businesses given the patchwork of city and county laws. For example, one county might allow compostable plastic cutlery in green bins while a next door county does not.

Waste Guru launched in October but Balanchandran has not gotten much traction out of his base in San Francisco. He estimates that only about three restaurants there implemented Waste Guru. He said that with restaurant margins being thin and the status quo working just fine for establishments, there hasn’t been a huge desire to implement a new Alexa-powered routine.

But Balachandran is undeterred, and is broadening the scope of his target market to go after buildings with cafeterias and food courts in malls. While many establishments already have signage that indicates where leftover items go, Balachandran thinks people are blind to those signs and that the interaction with Alexa will help make sorting better.

To help with that pitch, Balachandran is building out a visual component to Waste Guru, using an Echo Show as an interactive display to help people sort their waste. With the built-in GPS, these Waste Guru enabled Echos would automatically know the local city, county and state laws, and help people accordingly.

Having worked at a restaurant, I can understand how asking Alexa everytime you wanted to put something in the trash may have been too much hassle in such a frantically-paced environment. But I applaud Waste Guru’s out-of-the-box thinking and real-world attempt at diverting trash out of landfills. And, perhaps Waste Guru can still find a home in home kitchens helping out anyone who’s wondering where to put that used yogurt container.

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