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Living Lightly column

Act against litter with app

By Richard Paschke

Litter is everywhere. It moves with the wind and through our streams until it ends up in the oceans and becomes part of the global pollution that kills wildlife.

Recently, a video went viral about a fisher using Mentos wrappers as bait. Two months ago, a dead baby whale beached in the Philippines with 40 kg of plastic bags in its stomach.

Everyone has seen photos of the carcasses of albatross chicks lying in their hundreds, each with a pile of plastic debris where the stomach was, starved to death because their parents fed them plastic they mistook for fish.

Microplastics have, in a recent study, been found in the air. Studies in France and China in 2016 and 2017 revealed as many as 365 pieces of microplastics raining down per square meter every day.

And it all starts with litter.

It is time to do something about it, and the positive thing is we can. It is one thing to just pick up a piece, and at least that bit won’t make it into the stomach of a bird or a fish.

Now there is an app that makes it fun to collect and record the litter that we pick up.

For many years we have been picking up litter and didn’t know what the big picture was. In the last two months I have been using LITTERATI, an app for mobile devices.

Jeff Kirschner started it in 2012 because his daughter made him aware of one plastic cup in a creek. (Watch his TEDX talk on YouTube – he is very inspirational).

The data we record can be used to act against littering or get companies to control litter around their premises better. It will make litter projects more targeted and meaningful by providing evidence.

Jeff’s activities have helped to defend a cigarette tax in court against Big Tobacco by providing photographic evidence.

I hope that one day we will think differently about littering. One day, I hope littering will be like smoking in restaurants today – unacceptable behaviour. Mahatma Gandhi said ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.

I started a club in LITTERATI, the Plikers, we have eight members and have collected 731 pieces of litter. Well done everyone, thank you – and if you’re new to LITTERATI, start now!