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Open Litter Map: Enabling a Zero Waste Environment


What is Open Litter Map (OLM): OLM is an online crowdsourcing effort that aims to reveal the extent of litter within our local communities so we can all help create a world with less waste. OLM empowers us to become citizen scientists by providing us with tools for contributing to the production of knowledge, which has the potential to transform public and institutional behavior. Ultimately the goal is to help identify problematic trends, and solutions, surrounding waste and prevent it from polluting our environment.

Litter Geotagged Across UK & Ireland; 20 - 27 Apr 20

Benefits of OLM: There are two main components to OLM. The first, is an Instagram like app that is specifically meant for taking pictures of garbage you spot while on the go. When you see some trash you simply take a picture of it and select one of the preset tags to classify the litter. From there you press the upload button, which sends the picture to the OLM cloud. The photos are automatically tagged with the time and location the garbage was spotted, which means as more data is collected, we can begin identifying trends for both the location and type of trash that tends to be accumulating within our communities; enabling us to brainstorm solutions for the trash issues specific to our areas.

The second component of OLM is the database itself. The entire OLM dataset is open, which means anyone can download it in its entirety and use it for any purpose they see fit. So, on top of being able to contribute public knowledge as a citizen scientist you can also leverage the contributions of others for your own data analysis and research regarding the ecology of our communities.

Additionally, the database of images being constructed from everyone’s contributions will be a great source of data for machine learning. In short, machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence where computers can automatically improve their ability to identify objects by training them with photographs (e.g. images of different types of garbage). This is what the OLM database can provide; a huge set of “litter” photographs for training computers, which once trained could automatically identify and tag new pieces of garbage based on prior training experience; without human intervention.

Moreover, one can imagine that OLM’s efforts could be a huge help for non-profits such as 4Ocean, which seeks to eliminate plastic waste from the earths oceans. Now, anyone on a beach, or on a boat, can simply snap a picture of floating trash and upload it to the OLM cloud, providing the position and location of garbage in real-time; helping to enable the prioritized allocation of resources for trash recovery efforts by organizations such as #4Ocean.

How to contribute to OLM: To begin contributing you can download the OpenLitterMap app on Android or i-Phone and begin snapping images of the trash you see. The interface of the app is similar to Instagram’s Boomerang app; one button to snap images, and a second one to upload them to OLM cloud…that’s it…no learning curve involved. You can also head over to the #OpenLitterMap website if you would like to read and find out more.

Achievements & Rewards of OLM: To date over 152,000 pieces of litter have been geotagged via 72,000 user submitted photos, putting OLM well on the way to reaching their next milestone of 250,000 pieces of litter tagged. For fun, OLM also host an ongoing “World Cup” in which users are represented as members of their country whom compete to be global OLM contributing leaders. The top 10 contributors are displayed on OLM’s “World Cup” page. Additionally, users earn #Littercoin for their contributions, which is a blockchain based reward. Currently more than 2,900 Littercoin have been issued, but there is no monetary value or utility associated with this reward yet, other than bragging rights.

Total # Litter Reported by OLM Users & Total Littercoin Issued

Download the OLM App: So, what are you waiting for?! Take a break from the glamorous side of Instagram and start snapping pics of that gritty garbage on Android or i-Phone. Also, don’t forget to check out our Easy Clean Reusable Straws to help eliminate single use plastic, and the need to snap more pictures of haphazardly discarded trash. The Easy Clean Straw folds and snaps open for finger based cleaning; so there is no need to carry around a cleaning brush as is needed with other #reusablestraws.

Thanks for stopping by…we’ll see you next time!


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