Materials

Wastebase plastic tracking app launched

Environmental NGOs in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia are using a new crowdsourced data platform to instantly collect data from local plastic clean ups.

Wastebase was developed by UK-based social enterprise, unwaste.io.

Wastebase
The app is now available to download for Android users across Africa and the UK and allows environmental activists to organise, map and visualise quantitative information about plastic waste.

Volunteer waste collectors can sort and scan discarded bottles by barcode, allowing data about each product to be uploaded to the cloud platform.

Trained data partners - specialists who translate data into clear and comprehensible information - connect each product to information about brand, ownership and distribution, to show plastics producers and consumers where their waste ends up.

unwaste.io seeks to use its technology to target countries where traditional solid waste management faces systemic constraints.

In many coastal towns and cities in Africa, waste plastic often ends up in local rivers, waterways and mangroves, before making its way to the sea.

At least 80 per cent of global ocean plastic comes from land-based sources and once it enters the ocean, it is incredibly difficult and costly to recover.

The aim of the app is to interrupt this migration of discarded plastic from land to sea, in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, as well as in the UK.

Crowdsourcing data about waste is not a new phenomenon, however, with the international Break Free from Plastic movement already using information from brand audits across the globe to inform its research and campaigning.

The difference lies in that with Break Free from Plastic, brand audits are usually paper-based and require manual input into a computer, whereas with Wastebase the whole process takes place on a smartphone.

On the app, Cameron Smith, Founder of unwaste.io, commented: “Data has a huge role to play in encouraging adoption of EPR (extended producer responsibility).

“By visualising data about where their plastic ends up, we can show producers what is really happening.

“Wastebase lets everyone see which bottles end up where, and who owns the companies that make those products.”

One of Wastebase’s Data Partners, Repensar Environmental Cooperative in Maputo, implemented the app to assist their clean up operations.

The company uses information from brand audits to help local decision makers plan more efficient waste collection routes.

Josela Capassura, Project Coordinator of Repensar, commented: "It's so much quicker and easier when we can focus on collecting the PET waste and get the detailed information out of the system back in the office."

“Repensar’s team of 8 activists supported by 20 volunteers were able to collect, sort and log over 2,800 bottles in a 2 and a half hour session.”