Litterati Can Create Long-Term Impact From Clean-Ups
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Litter clean ups can have greater impact with Litterati

Litterati is making clean-ups more fun and encouraging individuals to take action to prevent waste from ending up in the wrong place.

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Kid taking things out of a landfill of trash

Litter. We've all seen it on the sidewalks, on the roads, in the parks, in the ocean. It comes across a wide range of shapes, sizes, and origins. Most of us may have contributed to it at one point or another, carelessly or accidentally. Many of us will spend the time to remove a few pieces here and there.

It's a hot summer day a camp. You and your peers have taken a trip to at a park. You are about to leave when the camp counselor asks everyone to find and remove five pieces of trash on the park grounds. You then scramble to find and remove five pieces, show them to the counselor and head on to the bus. It may be a boring and seemingly annoying task, but it helps keep the planet clean.

Litter cleanups don't have much of a long-term impact. It just temporarily makes a place look neater. This practice, however, can be more interesting and have a longer-lasting impact if you could pull information from it. Each piece of "trash" on the ground comes from somewhere. Each piece had some purpose at one point and was manufactured and distributed by some business at one point. Each product or packaging of a product has a unique identity and origin. Manufactures may print a specific label, embed their logo or company name on the product or its container, in the case of food or beverages.

Litterati can transform how people perceive litter cleanup. The Litterati app allows users to photograph each piece of litter that they remove. With each photo, both the geographic location and time took are recorded. Users then give tags, relating to the object's type, brand or material, to each piece of litter that they photograph using the app. Once there is an Internet connection, the app will automatically upload all the pictures onto its global database. On the app, all the pieces collected within the user's account is shown in a gallery. The Litterati website provides a map with the geotag of each piece of litter removed using the app. The website also lists the top 20 countries with the most active and the 20 most frequently tagged objects, brands or materials.

Removing litter while using the Litterati app is more interesting because the app tracks how many pieces of litter you pick up and it, somewhat, has the look and feel of Instagram with its tagging feature and gallery. The geotags allow you to track the location of each piece of litter removed. With all of the photos and tags, people can look for trends in the types and locations of litter found on their school or university grounds, parks, streets, and neighborhoods. This information can then be used to reduce litter through changes in purchasing, the creation of new legislation or rules, and finding solutions to reduce the prevalence of certain materials in an outdoor space. The pictures and locations encourage individuals and organizations to ask themselves why and how each piece of trash ended up there or where it comes from. The pictures and interactive map can also be used to persuade individuals to be more mindful of how they dispose of their waste.

It is more time-consuming and tedious to take a picture of every piece of trash while you remove it. When conducting in clean up in a place that is cluttered with litter or in a very limited time frame, it may not be feasible to use Litterati. At the same time, the data gathered from Litterati is more reliable and convincing than just tallying up the different types of trash within an area. In a court case that Big Tobacco leveraged against San Francisco's cigarette litter tax, Big Tobacco claimed that collecting information with pencils and clipboards is neither precise nor provable. Jeff Kirschner, the founder of Litterati, made an Instagram campaign to photograph and tag each piece of cigarette found in San Francisco (before Litterati was created).

When their data was used in court, Big Tobacco not only lost their case but the litter tax also doubled. The photographs with geotags and timestamps provided solid proof of the problem. Information gathered from Litterati can be utilized to push restaurants and stores to develop ways to reduce the number of sauce packets, single-use plastic bags, and straws that they give out. When a corporation such as Walmart or Marlboro finds thousands of pictures of their branded packaging as litter, it could spur initiatives and innovation to reduce their prevalence in the litter stream. Seeing your company's brand frequently in the litter stream is not good PR. If an individual, who is frequently careless about how they throw their trash, see that their litter is being documented, it can guilt them into changing their habits.

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