I spent some time in Barcelona with my wife. I enjoy staying in one of the Airbnb apartments because it allows me to feel more at home in the city. We tried out local restaurants and occasionally cooked for ourselves in the apartment. We eventually had garbage and recycling piles that needed to be disposed of. I went outside with the bags. The garbage system that was waiting for me looked like this.

It takes me fifteen minutes to comprehend and deliver the trash and recycled materials according to what the state decides. I didn't find it easy to understand that there were sixteen things to do and twelve things not to do. I have to start a decision-making process for every item in my trash bags. Am I ready to consider recycling my garbage with this level of precision, I thought to myself. I'm not sure. At some point, instead of classifying every piece of garbage, people will be eager to stop thinking and caring.

I also believe that recycling and trash pickup from these bins is a problem. To manage them, you need five different types of trucks. Each location needs five separate trash pickups, which raises operational costs and carbon footprints and makes it harder to run.

Most of the time, these types of state services are designed by perfectionist engineers. We don't need perfection or perfect solutions in our lives. To get more, we need to find optimal operating systems. I jotted down another example of these problems here. If we're talking about human behavior, in particular, we need to use marketing expertise to hack engineering solutions.

What we can learn from this situation:

Keep it simple

Don't make it harder to change a habit or a part of culture if you want to change it. Use two containers—one for trash and one for recycling.

Understand how people act

Recognize the true cost of human behavior to more precisely estimate system costs. You might think that the state saved money by using the five containers to separate trash and recyclables. Which do you prefer? The majority of people (80%) are happy to use two bins for trash and recycling, while a sizable minority (20%) would prefer to use five bins. Because only 20% of residents participated, the state is still responsible for sorting recyclables from nonrecyclables.

You are not a service provider

You are not only responsible for garbage collection as a state. You have the power to alter the culture that we live in, consume, and share. Try not to think like a machine. You're much more than just a vendor to us. You have the power to alter our future and improve our society. Be sure to define your business.

Ask for help from marketers

As marketers, we do more than just promote goods. We are also spreading ideas that affect people in our community. We know what "customer experience" means and why it's important for building a service that works.

The five-bin system that is used in Barcelona shows that engineers need to think of more than just technical solutions. Human factors and economics need to be considered as well. The state shouldn't just see itself as a provider of services; it should also evaluate the impact it can have on its citizens' way of life. To do this, the government should hire marketers who understand the idea of customer experience and can spread ideas that touch the hearts of the people who live there.