We all know that litter is a huge global problem
But all around the world, people continue to throw their stuff on the ground and leave it behind them.
Cigarette butts, Facemasks, Cans and bottles...
These are littered all around the world in the trillions, without any regard for the impact it has on the environment or the people who have to pick it up.
Litter destroys ecosystems and costs taxpayers millions every year.
All around the world, people are picking up litter again and again but nothing changes. Every day it's the same problem.
If picking up litter is all we do, that is all we will ever do.
Litter mapping is an important activity that can change government policy and human behaviour to help stop this problem from happening.
All around the world, millions of people have powerful devices that can collect data. But we are not yet harnessing this unprecedented human potential.
In a few years, producing huge global datasets is going to become the new normal.
In 2008, I started studying litter mapping to try and improve the visibility of this problem.
A lot of the world is littered, but for many people, most of this litter is invisible.
When people see these maps, they will never look at the streets the same way ever again. This education is a huge part of how we stop this problem from happening.
Why is it called "OpenLitterMap?"
OpenLitterMap was inspired by OpenStreetMap, a free and open database of the worlds streets. Over 2 million people have contributed data to OpenStreetMap, making it the most comprehensive map of the world ever made. Anyone can add to the map, and anyone can download the data. The map used in the background of most apps (Snapchat, Facebook, etc) is OpenStreetMap. We apply the same principles of crowdsourcing and open data to plastic pollution.
Anyone can contribute to OpenLitterMap, and anyone can download all of our data for free.
After doing 2 masters studying litter mapping, and then teaching myself how to code, our web-app finally launched in April 2017.
In 2019, I launched the first version of our mobile app on iOS.
In 2020, I launched on Android, and in mid-October 2020, the new version of openlittermap.com was released.
We are now 3,600 users from 80 countries. We have crowdsourced over 100,000 images of litter and we are growing daily.
How does it work??
We made this quick video that shows you how to use our app
So far I have done most of this by myself, and now I need your help to bring OpenLitterMap to the next stage.
What do we need the money for ??
1. Fix problems with the app.
OpenLitterMap is available for iOS and Android, but the app has some problems making it impossible for some people to use it. We need time to work on it and bring another developer on the team for a few weeks. We just released version 2 of the website, which has a new landing page and now loads all data on the global map, but many other features are not working yet.
2. New Features
Once these problems have been fixed, we are going to introduce some amazing new features that will make citizen science really fun and engaging. In particular we are going to introduce
- Right now when you submit data to OpenLitterMap, you are helping the country where you are uploading data from compete for a position at the #LitterWorldCup. The U.K. is currently in 1st place for submitting the most data, followed by Ireland and the USA. We are going to expand this and let people join their own teams eg. School, club and company teams.
- When you submit data to OpenLitterMap, you score points and compete for a position in multiple different leaderboards. We are going to allow people to unlock awards and "level-up". We have some really exciting ideas here that will really make this app stand out and engage young people.
We want to work on this app over the winter and get it ready for next Spring. Last year, Denmark became the first country in the world to generate a national survey of plastic pollution, which was powered by over 56,000 students. But the data collection processes for people to submit and access data are really inadequate considering the severity of the global litter epidemic.
We want OpenLitterMap to become the platform that all students all around the world can contribute to.
What if we challenged students from Ireland vs. Denmark to see who can collect the most data? What about the Netherlands? The UK? India? Brasil?
Which school can collect the most data? What country has the most active data collectors? We want to give prizes and reward the most active students. Helping the environment doesn't need to be boring. We want to make it FUN!
4. And more!
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The photos you submit to OpenLitterMap are being used to train computer vision algorithms. This is going to make submitting data much, much easier.
OpenLitterMap is the first app that rewards people with cryptocurrency for doing the work of submitting data. We want to incentivise people to share their data, and introduce them to new zero-waste circular economic startups in the process.
We want OpenLitterMap translated into as many languages as possible.
We are going to release all our code as open source so anyone can contribute to it. We want to make sure that science on pollution is open, transparent and democratic, and not controlled by anyone or any group, but controlled by everyone in the OpenLitterMap community.
Why now and why should I help??
More and more studies are showing how worryingly underdeveloped our knowledge of global pollution is. Plastic pollution was first recognized to have a global distribution in the oceans as early as 1975, but nothing was done for decades because access to knowledge was restricted. When social media came around, people were able to easily share and consume information and I believe this is what resulted in a mass awakening of global pollution. Not only can people share information (social media 1.0) but now people can share data (social media 2.0). We are going to do to science on pollution what social media did to information on pollution... break down all silos and democratise participation.
So far, more than 60 grant holders in a row have rejected my application. I am launching this GoFundMe to give ordinary people who care about the environment like you and me a chance to support this 10+ year effort.
If you are ready to end 2020 with some GOOD NEWS for the environment, please share this GoFundMe, download our app, and join our community!!!
If you can, please join the crowdfunding so we can develop this critical environmental technology.
I hope you will join me, and 3,600 other OpenLitterMappers around the world, and help us map the worlds litter and plastic pollution.
If you would like to help shape the future of OpenLitterMap, every Thursday at 6pm Irish time, we run a weekly community zoom call for ~ 1 hour. Here, you can chat with others in the OpenLitterMap community, share your ideas, and help us advance litter mapping as a form of science to help fix the global litter problem. It really is amazing meeting people from around the world who are all working to fix the global litter epidemic! What we need is an open database platform where everyone can contribute to. 100% open.
Keep in touch:
Thank you for taking an interest in OpenLitterMap
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