The App Which Wants to Map Trash Hotspots in Preparation for a Global Clean Up

Let's Do It volunteers hit the beach in a clean up operation

Fed up with illegal dumpsites? A new app will let you map that eyesore in preparation for what could be the 'biggest positive civic action' of all time.

Autor*in Mark Newton, 04.06.18

Translation Mark Newton:

Fed up with illegal dumpsites? A new app will let you map that eyesore in preparation for what could be the ‘biggest positive civic action’ of all time.

If you’re anything like me, spotting an illegal fly tipping site usually elicits a lot of tutting, head-shaking, but not much action. Luckily for the clean conscious everywhere, there is an app out there which makes reporting and cleaning up illegal dumpsites a relative breeze.

Environmental group Let’s Do It arrived on the scene in Estonia in 2008 with the goal of cleaning up the country’s illegal waste. With a corp of over 50,000 volunteers at their disposable, they managed to achieve this objective in an astonishing five hour clean up operation.

Since then, the movement has been expanded all round the world and now, according to their official website, 18 million people in over 120 countries have now taken up the cause of cleaning up the Earth.

Central to their cleaning kit is a World Clean Up app which allows users to quickly and conveniently flag illegal dumping and fly-tipping sites to be cleaned up later. Whereas previously, reporting a dumping site might require several phone calls or letters to local councils and authorities – which may go unheeded – the World Clean Up app allows trash-spotters to report illegal dumping sites that exact same moment.

Mapping The Problem

However, cleaning up these sites is only part of the endeavour. Central to the Let’s Do It toolkit is the mapping component of the app, dubbed MAPTRASH. Based on Google Maps, MAPTRASH aims to build up authoritative local, and ultimately global, maps of illegal dumping. As well as providing a quantitative basis of the eventual clean-up, MAPTRASH also helps to mobilise local volunteers, provide data to various agencies and backup Let’s Do It’s advocacy efforts. In particular, it can help to build up real tangible and workable information in countries suffering a dumping epidemic.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, up to ninety percent of electronic waste is currently illegally dumped. This potentially toxic refuse often ends up in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Pakistan, India, China and Vietnam, all of which have become international hubs for waste from Global North countries. Trash, electric or otherwise, also often makes it into rivers and oceans, polluting water supplies and presenting a massive long term threat to the stability of the ecosystem.

Trash To Cash

Let’s Do It, and their local affiliates, are also eager to educate the public in these countries on the benefits, both financially and environmentally, of operating an effective recycling and waste management program. Currently, the legitimate waste management market is globally worth around 410 billion USD a year. Meanwhile, 52 billion USD a year is lost in illegal dumping. This hasn’t gone unnoticed in some countries with longstanding illegal dumping issues. Most recently, Let’s Do It Nigeria announced the launch of their ambitious education effort to mobilise up to 5 per cent of the Nigerian population (around 9.25 million people) in local clean up efforts.

The movement certainly has big plans for 2018. In fact, they hope to be the instigators of the “biggest positive civic action the world has seen” with this year’s World Clean Up Day. Armed with the World Clean Up app, Let’s Do It hopes to mobilise its 18 million global volunteers on September 15 for a deep cleanse of the their neighbourhoods.

Of course, the big question still lingers: where does this cleaned up trash actually go? Just because it has been removed from roadsides does not mean it has ultimately ‘gone’. The answer to this question likely varies wildly from country to country, but in many, the trash may simply end up in landfills – a better, but still problematic, solution to our global trash challenges. 

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