GPS Investigation: Recycling Secrets

Category: Innovation (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Taiwan

Organisation: Apple Daily Taiwan branch

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 1 Nov 2019

Credit: Po Chun Ho, Wei Chou Chen, Liang Ju Hou, Yi Jing Wu, Ting Jen Chen, Huan Cheng Lin, Charles Wang, King Hsueh, Tiffany Keng, Wei Neng Yu

Project description:

To discover the truth about recycling in Taiwan, the reporters stuffed nine GPS trackers into nine recyclable materials. Next, the reporters gave those recyclable materials to the government recycling collectors in three northern cities. After that, we started to track their movements by checking the real-time geological locations sent back by the GPS trackers.

We found that some materials were taken by recycling companies to illegal places, such as a recycling site on farmland in Taoyuan. The site is not only harming our precious farmland, but also poses a big threat to public safety.

Impact reached:

Taiwan’s official recycling policy has been running for 20 years with a recycling rate as high as 58% touted by the government. However, not many officials or people really care about where those recyclable materials go.

After being published, the report raised the public’s awareness about the problematic recycling system in Taiwan, and forced the government to confess their mistakes and promise to improve it.

Techniques/technologies used:

The five main tools we used in this feature story are Animation, Canvas, JQuery, Json, and OpenStreetMap.

When it comes to interactive news, the use of maps is a crucial element. Apple Daily’s in-depth feature story “GPS Investigation: Recycling Secrets” combines Geographic Information System with articles, photos, and videos to show readers “a complete map of Taiwan’s recycling industry.”

The reporters, visual designers, and software engineers worked together to create an interactive news site to present our investigative results. Every GPS’s positions and movements are “visualized” on the news site, so the readers can see all recyclable materials’ flows after being collected. By surfing the page, the readers can watch short videos to understand the complete “recycling circle” and its flaws.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The digital presentation and visualization of our investigative results is the most difficult part of this project.

Besides, the latitude and the longitude information of GPS trackers are not one hundred percent correct, so the engineer had to find the errors of it and “adjust” the trackers’ routes manually.

What can others learn from this project?

This interactive feature story combines data compilation with field survey, and it reveals the truth about recycling system to the public. It is also a multimedia report with articles, videos, and infographics to show readers the movements of every recyclable material.

In addition, we wrote in-depth reports to analyze the recycling problems in three cities. At the end of the page, there is a map of “legal and illegal recycling sites in Taiwan” for readers to check the locations of those sites by clicking the map.

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