Trash Toss

Without A Trace: Trash Toss

Environmental Stewardship & Social Justice


Lack of recycling literacy is a global issue affecting the world’s population. Just in the United States, our recycling streams are dangerously contaminated with non-recyclable waste. Moreover, the main buyer of US recyclable material, China, is no longer accepting foreign recyclables. At UCSC, the story is sadly similar. Material being placed in the campus recycling bins either has not been properly cleaned or is not recyclable in the first place, leading to a contaminated recycling stream. As a result, the City of Santa Cruz Resource Recovery Facility is no longer accepting recycling waste from UCSC  and is diverting it all to the landfill. 

In order to raise awareness and clean up our recycling streams, Without A Trace, an interdisciplinary team of computer science, sustainability studies, and art students, is designing and building an interactive and educational mobile game. Their aim is a “gamified” behavior change campaign: influence detrimental consumption and disposal habits still practiced by many members of the UCSC campus community. Adopting an enigmatic “dungeon crawler” strategy set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, the development team is committed to keeping the gameplay dynamic and fun while depicting a strict allegiance to current recycling policies and standards. Adopting sentiments represented by the larger “serious gaming” movement the team expects prospective players to experience more than entertainment when they download this free mobile app. Game mechanics introduce players to concepts like “pre-cycling” as they roam through different places on the hunt to collect and stockpile discarded materials. A triage incentive, integrated into the character’s “backpack” inventory, teaches players the value of sorting materials before trading them in. The game is being assembled on a Unity platform and will be playable on IOS and Android.


Without A Trace is set in a dystopian future ravaged by ecological disaster. You play as one of the few remaining survivors scavenging for scrap materials to recycle into goods. The main gameplay loop revolves around drawing a line for the player’s character to follow. The player must move through each room of the level while picking up items along the way. Watch out, there are dangerous obstacles and other survivors who can end your run!

We will be rolling out Without A Trace by the end of the quarter to both the IOS App Store and Google Play Store. While anyone can download the app, we will be primarily marketing Without A Trace to the UCSC student body. We expect our players to learn how to precycle, sort, and reuse the items they consume.