Using Citizen Science for Gathering and Processing Data on Plastic Waste
The Trashpackers movement is a community of backpackers who are cleaning up as much trash around the world as they can. Their mission is to create more awareness about the plastic pollution problem. They realise that cleaning up isn’t enough. That’s why they have established a long-term vision in order to contribute to possible solutions.

An important step in solving the plastic pollution problem is gathering data, e.g. on the location of (plastic) waste, and on the amounts and composition of this waste. This information can for example be used to identify hotspots, to link pollution to causes and to confront producers.
In a collaboration with their partners, i.e. SAS Analytics and Baseflow, Traspackers is developing an app for registering waste. The idea is that Trashpackers around the world use this app to localize and characterize waste.

There are already several global apps for waste registration, e.g. the Open Litter Map and Litterati. The idea is that the Trashpackers app will be aligned with these existing apps and with other waste monitoring initiatives, e.g. the Integrated Marine Debris Observation System (IMDOS). This requires a sound approach for waste registration and classification. The main aims of the research are to:

  • Explore existing initiatives for waste registration as a source of inspiration;
  • Define potential applications for (plastic) waste data;
  • Select a suitable classification system for (plastic) waste;
  • Align the Trashpackers system for data collection with other initiatives;
  • Explore novel techniques for the identification and quantification of (plastic) waste.

Project form: Literature review, data analysis, process development.
Literature: Maximenko N, Corradi P, Law KL, Van Sebille E, et al. 2019. Toward the Integrated Marine Debris Observing System. Front. Mar. Sci., 28 August 2019.

Contact: Prof. Ad Ragas