Last updated on February 12, 2023.
Have you ever been out walking, hiking, biking, or even kayaking and noticed that there was trash here and there, everywhere? Noticed trash lining the streets as you drove to work or school? Or the debris that just seems to have washed up while walking on the beach or riverbank?
What do you do? Do you pick it up?
If so, there’s an app for that. It’s called Litterati.
This app tracks litter that people all over the world pick up, and it compiles the data by location in order to pinpoint the source of the litter. With this app you take a photo of each piece of litter with your smartphone, then pick it up and discard it. You can get really artistic with your photos, too. Litterati features the most interesting and creative photos on Instagram.
Photos are automatically geotagged, meaning information about the exact location and time of pick-up is recorded. Additionally, users hashtag each image with information such as the brand, object name, and type of material.
That data is loaded into an ArcGIS map to help track and create data to help diagnose the root cause of litter in any given area.1 As Litterati’s website explains:
“Litterati then compiles that cleanup data into a robust database of litter maps around the world. Using your tagged cleanup photos, the Litterati team can ask questions such as, ‘How does the weather affect the types of litter thrown?’ and ‘Are there more cigarette butts littered near bus stops?’.”2
Jeff Kirschner, the founder of Litterati, explained in a TED Talk why he created the app:
I joined this effort in March 2017, and I love it! I’ve used it in my neighborhood, while hiking, on my son’s school grounds, at the dog park, and at the beach. We pick up trash whenever we feel we can safely collect it and discard it. It is really satisfying to know we are making a difference and teaching my son by example.
You can join or create clubs and daily they list the top 5 people with the most activity. I made that list twice and it made my day!
In May 2018, the United Nations announced that they are partnering with Litterati to fight world pollution.3
While Litterati is using its data and mapping for great changes, Jeff Kirschner is still looking to inspire people. “How do we deliver a wonderful experience for each community member so that they’re inspired to pick up just one more piece, and then one more?”4 And then spread the word, build community, and inspire others. Wouldn’t it be cool if picking up trash and keeping our Earth clean became the new normal?
Thank you for reading, and let’s be the change!
A few of my own Litterati photos: