In 2009, a Keep America Beautiful study estimated that there are more than 51 Billion pieces of litter along the roadsides of the United States1.
Millions of dollars a year are spent on cleaning up and trying to stop litter, but millions of dollars and millions of frustrations later, we still have the problem.
We’re taking a different approach.
We've designed this tool as a catalyst and reality check — a way of mapping the extent of litter and gathering creative and integrated ways to fix the problem.
This is a first step and a focal point — a rally cry of sorts.
With your help in collecting hundreds of thousands of pieces of litter and mapping them, we can promote specific cleanup days in heavily impacted areas, sort through the data to promote better recycling pickup points, stimulate conversations on ways to stop litter, and advocate for progressive policy and program changes based on the results we’re seeing.
We don't know the answers yet.
And certainly at the outset, we don't have any solutions.
But with any good design problem, it starts with asking questions and testing assumptions. Why do people litter? How much is really out there? What can ordinary people do about it? What can existing programs and organizations do to make cleanup and collection more effective? Who is ultimately paying for litter cleanup?
1. Keep America Beautiful, Executive Summary, Litter in America: National Findings and Recommendations, 2009; P. Wesley Schultz, California State University, Steven R. Stein, Environmental Resources Planning LLC
How Does it Work?
Remember, safety first! Bring your gloves, watch out for sharp edges, or unsanitary objects. If you are in doubt, or come across a huge mess, just photograph it and mark the upload as "not collected". Also, of course, be safe along streets and roadsides—watch out for cars.
1Anytime you see a piece of litter, photograph it with your smartphone with Location Services (GPS tagging) enabled.
If you don't have that feature, you can always mark the photos later with your favorite image processing application.
2Pick it up, and throw it away, or recycle it.
You've got the photo, why do you need the litter anymore, right? You could be satisfied with just having done this service to society, but wait! There's more...
3Upload it here.
Tag the photo with what type of material it is, and what brand it is if you can. Jump back over to the homepage of the site and browse through the massive number of photos and map markers. Your photos are in there and you’ve taken the first step towards fixing the littering problem.
4...onward! Look for more!
Whether going for a hike, riding your bike, or simply walking around town, it’s everywhere! Repeat and keep in touch!