Big Data Combatting Big Litter - RNY News

Big Data Combatting Big Litter

March 16, 2017

Laura Chalk

Technology and big data are helping individuals to create a litter free world in a connected and even fun way.

On Sunday, March 5th, thousands of Australians took to the streets, beaches, parks and neighbourhoods for the 26th Clean Up Australia Day. While the day continues to engage participants to de-litter their environments, there are individuals picking up rubbish around the world every day of the year. Increasingly technology is building the capacity for collaboration on a global scale to combat waste.

Litterati is an app used to identify, collect and geotag rubbish around the world. The brains behind the smartphone application is innovator and entrepreneur Jeff Kirschner, who has created a global community of eager rubbish collectors. Kirschner has tracked trash in more than 100 countries and hopes to use the data to collaborate with brands and organizations to stop the pervasive problem of waste.

His vision is to create a litter-free world.

It started by taking photos of rubbish he found (and disposed of), then posting his finds to Instagram. Kirschner found that litter became “artistic and approachable.” He also realised that he was unwittingly keeping a record of the positive impact he was having on the planet. Feeling empowered by this, he surmised that others might enjoy the experience. They did. After telling people about what he was doing, images flooded in from around the US and soon, from around the world.

It became clear that Litterati was more than just pictures; it was a global community collecting data. Litterati outgrew Instagram so Kirschner built an app. As he explains, “each photo tells a story. It tells us who picked up what, a geotag tells us where, and a time stamp tells us when.” Kirchner built a google map, plotting the global sites of waste reduction.

Unique Litter-Print

Every city has a unique rubbish fingerprint. Once it’s known what waste predominates in a certain area, targeted solutions can be implemented. Kirchner suggests approaching businesses whose litter is found in large amounts, presenting them with the data and causing them to ask: “How does a brand take an environmental hazard, turn it into an economic engine and become an industry hero?” Litterati, with its data-gathering capabilities, has the potential to not just empower individuals but big business too.

Social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, are useful tools for movements such as the Two Hands Project, which asks followers to spend 30 minutes in their environment, using their two hands, to collect rubbish. Then, to photograph the result and share on the Instagram page or website. Photos, following action, have flooded in from around the world, creating an empowering ripple effect as more and more individuals follow the account and join the unofficial campaign to clean up our planet.

Positive Action



Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.  

Laura Chalk

Laura joined Planet Ark in 2016. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience having travelled the world and a background in teaching English as a second language among other things.