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Trash-tracking app could help keep Hong Kong waterways clean

Hikers and beachgoers will be able to send photos to database to help clean-up campaigns

A new “trash-reporting app” will reduce plastic pollution in waterways and eventually the sea by harnessing the power of the public to provide information on its location, according to the app’s developer.

Global Alert is billed as an online mapping tool that allows users – particularly hikers and beachgoers – to report, rate and map the locations of rubbish blackspots and alert the community to take swift action.

Its main focus would be on floating plastic trash, which is produced on land but tends to accumulate in rivers, lakes and coastlines, said Douglas Woodring, co-founder and managing director of the Ocean Recovery Alliance conservation group which developed the app.

“Most trash comes via rivers and waterways before ending up in the ocean,” he said. “You can think of a river as a blood vessel and the ocean as the heart. The trash is the cholesterol.”

Users could send real-time data from their smartphones, including photographs, to a central database, he said. The information would allow volunteer beach and shoreline clean-up crews as well as government departments to better decide where to conduct clean-ups or deploy catchment devices, before the trash moved further downstream.

“It will make it easier to locate and catch this trash before it gets into the sea, where it will be harder to clean up,” Woodring said.

The Environmental Protection Department estimates that up to a quarter of marine refuse found in local coastal areas are “plastic pieces”.

While the amount of marine refuse collected from public beaches and in the open sea has been decreasing, rubbish found near the shore and in marine parks or reserves has been going up, according to government statistics.

“If I’m hiking somewhere and I see trash on a remote beach, I can report it … With this app, you can be effective,” he said.

The alliance, a registered Hong Kong charity, developed the app with funding and endorsement from the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Oceans. It is set to be rolled out soon in more than 20 countries.

Source URL (modified on Apr 18th 2015, 1:03am):

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