Impact Tech Insights

Feb 18, 2021 12:15:14 PM
Bob Snow

A picture paints a thousand hopes

brian-yurasits-Dv3foafkgIs-unsplash.jpg

The amazing grassroots power of Litterati, the global community committed to creating a litter-free world.

“It’s really simple. I’m driven to leave this place better than I found it,” says Jeff Kirschner. 

Jeff started Litterati because of something one of his young children said to him. One day, while hiking in the woods, she spotted a plastic container of cat litter in the creek, and said, “Daddy, that doesn't go there!”

 

It made him think of his childhood summer camp, when the director asked all the kids to pick up five pieces of litter each before their parents visited. Then, he thought, “Why not apply that crowdsourced cleanup model to the entire planet?”

 

The Litterati app has since grown to be used in 165 countries around the world with more than 200,000 participants, with more joining every day.

 

The app couldn’t be simpler to use. People find a piece of litter, take a picture of it with their smartphone, then pick it up and throw it out. A geotag shows where the litter was, a timestamp shows when the litter was picked up, and computer vision models are used to analyze each photograph, identifying the objects, materials, and brands.

 

When plotted on a map, highly detailed data visualizations can be created. In addition, every picture tells a story about what the litter is, and where it comes from – a popular fast-food chain, for example, or a certain brand of soft drink, or a particular brand of cigarettes.

 

And it can have a very powerful, positive and immediate impact on a community.

 

San Francisco is one example. They wanted to know how much litter in the city was cigarettes, so they could create a tax. They had a couple of people walk around and manually record the information, which led to a 20-cent tax on every package of cigarettes sold. But the city was sued by the tobacco companies, who said that the manual collection of information couldn’t be validated.

 

The city then contacted Litterati, and within four days, 5,000 pieces of cigarette litter were photographed, picked up, and logged. This data was then used to defend and actually double the tax, which now generates four million dollars a year for the city’s cleanup program.

 

The Litterati community is part of a growing worldwide movement. Here’s why.

 

The global groundswell of support for Litterati comes from a confluence of three universal trends. The first is that cities everywhere have set their sights on zero waste targets. Waste is a massive global issue, and cities have said, ‘enough’. The second is that corporations are being held accountable for the materials they produce, and as a result, they’re setting very ambitious corporate responsibility goals. Finally – and perhaps most influential – individual consumers are demanding change, and they’re driven by the scientific facts and evidence-based data.

 

The true power of Litterati comes from the people who use it. “Everyone can be part of the solution,” says Jeff. “Using the app, they’ve discovered that individually they can each make a difference, but together they create an impact.”

 

In the Netherlands, for example, the government has now added cans to their deposit system as a direct result of the Litterati community’s involvement. And a group of fifth graders in the United States used the app to discover that of the 1,247 pieces of litter they picked up on their playground one day, most were straw wrappers from their own cafeteria. After asking their principal why straws were needed at all, the school stopped buying them.

 

“That’s what excites us at Litterati,” says Jeff. “We love the idea of empowering people with a simple but sophisticated tool that enables them to be part of the solution. We’re empowering people to create a litter-free world.”

Subscribe to our newsletter

Download the Agenda

New call-to-action
New call-to-action

Insights

Role of plant-based diet in fighting climate ..

Jun 17, 2021 6:20:49 PM

Editorial Team

A new study published in Science reveals that moving to a more plant-based diet is a key component in fighting the rapidly accelerating climate crisis. According to Michael Clark, a researcher at Oxfo...

Sydney to host first global summit on accelerating  pathways to zero emissions

Sydney to host first global summit on acceler..

Jun 16, 2021 2:10:49 AM

Editorial Team

The Impact X Summit (IX) is hosted by Blue Impacts in collaboration with NSW Government and a wide coalition of climate action partners Summit to present pathways to zero emissions for five industry s...

Are greenhouse gas detectors the future of climate data tracking

Are greenhouse gas detectors the future of cl..

Jun 4, 2021 2:27:43 PM

Editorial Team

Reports have it that Boeing, Alaska Airlines, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are teaming up to measure greenhouse gases midflight. "The tools would measure concentratio...

This elegant solution to cut methane emission..

Jun 2, 2021 7:53:31 PM

Editorial Team

In 2018, Dr Steve Meller was at theAsia Pacific Energy Leaders' Summit conference in New Zealand when the Prime Minister of one of the Pacific Island nations experiencing rising ocean levels due to cl...