Plastics, more than any other material, end up in the sea. There are now five floating plastic islands in various oceans around the world, with the largest island, three times the size of France, even having a name: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is the world's largest ocean waste repository, with 1.8 billion pieces of floating plastic killing countless marine animals yearly. It is located between California and Hawaii.

Of course, we now know that wealthy countries generate 35% of waste, with the remaining 50% exported to emerging regions. Simultaneously, 70% of developing countries mismanage their pollutants and lack the infrastructure to collect and recycle waste. Finally, rivers carry 90% of all plastic waste into the oceans, with the majority flowing through a few hundred rivers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Many projects have sprung up in an attempt to address the issue of plastic pollution. One of the projects funded by Bitcoin philanthropists on Bitcoin Beach in El Salvador is the accumulation of plastics in the river before they approach the sea.

Plastic Bank, based in Canada, also tends to work to encourage ocean stewards to collect plastic and claims that they have prevented more than 64 million kilograms of plastic from approaching the ocean to date.

Students from Nottingham University, led by Remi Tuyaerts, co-founder of DeFi app Alluo, were involved in numerous social business enterprises in Malaysia in 2014, such as one that utilizes black soldier flies to eat waste and another which converts plastic into beanbags and hiring the homeless.

Manila Bay Beach in the Philippines was packed with so much plastic waste in 2019 that it earned the moniker "rubbish beach," but it was reclaimed in a huge cleanup within a couple of months. Over 45 tons of garbage were initially removed by 5,000 volunteers. Prior to the 2018 onslaught, Bounties Network paid fishermen to collect trash and compensated them with tokens, and the ongoing payments helped fund fishermen's precarious livelihoods while keeping the beach clean.

These projects, however, are all attempting to address the consequences of littering and its effect on developing countries. What about projects that address issues closer to their source?

Geographical revolution

In 2008, Seán Lynch, the founder of OpenLitterMap and LitterCoin in Cork, Ireland, discovered GIS, the mapping software used by governments to map real-world data such as roads or pipelines, and noticed that it was very similar to many of the maps in his games. He then considered using this tool to map real-world data into a game. The next question was about the application.

Inspired by this revelation, Lynch returned to his hometown of Cork to pursue a master's degree in GIS to fully comprehend how to use technology to solve the pollution problem. He also realized that simply presenting the problem, no matter how large, would not be sufficient motivation; it had to be more immediate.

Lynch's ideas evolved into a scientific research platform where data can be crowdsourced on a hyper-local scale.

Lynch also has good timing in terms of the evolution of geography. He explains that there have been several iterations and paradigm shifts in the study of the planet. Until the 1960s, the study of geography and the practice of teaching it were primarily descriptive. Then there was a computational revolution in which universities gained access to computers and governments launched satellites into space.

Citizen science was born as a result of this revolution, and approximately 4 billion people owned a powerful data collection instrument — their smartphone. There are thousands of possible data aggregation points, not just a few experts counting and accumulating geographical data.

It is now simply a matter of making the data count and determining which data is relevant.

Lynch began following Bitcoin in 2014, and he especially liked the concept of proof-of-work, in which miners are rewarded for securing the network. Lynch had another "aha" moment when Ethereum launched a few years later, allowing him to create his own token.

Since the app's launch in April 2017, there have been 6,500 users, with new users joining on a daily basis. This burgeoning community has contributed 500,000 tags and over 350,000 photographs.

Lynch has established a worldwide #LitterWorldCup to make the process more enjoyable, with countries competing to be the best. Ireland was previously ranked first, but the Dutch community has since surpassed them. After all, litter collection may begin at home.

What do you think about blockchain and its potential to help with the world’s growing plastic problem? Let us know your comments by sharing this article on social media.

Nov 16, 2022
Digital Lifestyle

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