A litter free world

María Hernández Paredes under her normal appearance, normal life and normal routines, cherishes a great ambition: preserve the planet for the future generations. María is convinced we all can reach our aspirations without harming the environment and others, if only we would reconsider the definition of success. In Gandhi’s words: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed”

I am very grateful to María for her contribution with this article for Value Based Jumping.

María Hernández Paredes, February 2018

Let´s talk about litter… Where do we start? Let´s not start from the beginning this time, from the multiple ways in which litter is generated, so many times in a senseless way. Let´s also not do it from the end, which is not even written for many types of waste that will continue existing generations after those that produced them have disappeared. A plastic bottle takes 450 years to disappear. That is really kicking the can down the road.

Or maybe not. A recent study claims that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans. The study is based in projections and estimations. It cannot be known for sure how many fish will be left in the seas, nor how much plastic will be discharged every year. Although the figure cannot claim high accuracy, it is still logic that, as the use of plastics increase, if it is not collected and properly disposed of, its proportion will have more and more weight (literally) in the ocean. The comparison with the fishes helps us visualize the magnitude of the problem at hand.

On an individual level we can take actions to reduce the amount of waste generated and recycle as much as possible. We can also look for ways to exert pressure to our governments to promote more reutilization and recycling. Most likely, we will still be left with the feeling that the effort is not going anywhere, that the problem is already too big.

Litterati 1

That´s where initiatives like Litterati can make a difference. This platform, started in California in 2012, aims to bring visibility to a problem that we are so used to that we do not see anymore. The idea is very simple. Every time someone picks a piece of litter from the street, the ground, anywhere where it should not be, the litter gets photographed, tagged, and uploaded in the Litterati database (the “Digital Landfill”) through a free app. We are now in 2018 and more than 1 million pieces of litter have been picked up. As the number of users grow, the impact gets multiplied and reaches more corners of the planet. The most active countries so far are the US, Netherlands and the UK. Spain is in 16th place. The most tagged articles are plastics, followed by cigarettes, paper and cans.

Litterati 4
Maps visulaozation in the app

Litterati´s goal goes beyond cleaning the planet. This company is using the data to promote awareness in consumers as well as with government and corporations. Many times we hear that what is not measured does not exist. Thanks to the information captured in this app by thousands of anonymous users, the problem of litter becomes visible and relevant. For the user, it makes him or her feel a part of a sensitized community that thanks to the sum of many individual efforts is giving voice to a problem ignored for a long time.

In his TED talk, the Litterati´s founder Jeff Kirschner will shows you the impact that has been generated by the application since it was launched in 2012.

Litterati 3
Litterati screen shot. Great Start. WOW. I feel so motivated!

I invite you to visit Litterati´s website and download the app. I am a bit old to play Pokemon Go. Today, armed with my cell, pointing to the street, I think the thrill might be similar. The satisfaction every time I make a piece of litter disappear from the ground, keeping record of what, when, and where, is the same as achieving a small accomplishment. In a city like Madrid, the game can be exhausting. You need to leave some on the ground for others, else you would never arrive wherever you had planned to go. I hope for a future, that we all get to see, where finding a can thrown on the street becomes as surprising as running into the most elusive pokemon.

María Hernández Paredes


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