Solving Litter Problems with Open Innovation and the Crowd

Litter is a massive problem that negatively affects health and safety, wildlife and the environment.

In an effort to inspire new cleanup solutions, a free open innovation app call Litterati is encouraging the global community to identify, map and collect the world’s garbage.

Smartphone users download the app, take photos of the litter they see in their daily lives, identify the type of litter with a keyword and then throw the trash away.  The photos are downloaded into the app’s “virtual landfill” to help create a picture of the most common products and brands being thrown away in various locales.

The data will then be shared with companies and organizations to encourage them to come up with sustainable ways forward.

Litterati was featured in a recent Ted Talk by Jeff Kirschner, the creator of the app. During the talk, he said: “Every city in the world has a unique litter fingerprint, and that fingerprint provides both the source of the problem and the path to the solution.”

Kirschner gave an example of how the app could lead to solutions. He told the audience how the Litterati community had found around 1,500 pieces of litter in a downtown block in Oakland, California. Most of the litter consisted of hot sauce packets from a well-known taco brand, many of which were unopened.

Presenting the company with this data could encourage them to install bulk dispensers, only give out sauce on request or develop more sustainable packaging.

For more information about Litterati, including how it got started and an early success story, watch Jeff Kirschner’s TED Talk below.


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