Tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of volunteers will be combing their local beaches in honor of International Coastal Cleanup Day. For more than 30 years, the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental organization focused on the protection and restoration of the oceans, has sponsored the mid-September event.
Whether fighting to pass legislation to protect key habitats or organizing beach cleanups, the Ocean Conservancy is driven to conserve the coasts and restore the ocean’s health. The group works internationally on a plethora of projects with indigenous communities, legislators, scientists, and now, mobile app developers.
This year, the organization aims to engage more people in the international cleanup endeavor through its interactive and educational new app, Clean Swell. Free and available for iOS and Android users, Clean Swell allows users to record every piece of trash they pick up via smartphone, and upload this intel to the Ocean Conservancy’s global ocean trash database. The data, according to project and outreach specialist Sarah Kollar, will help inform policymakers and scientists by identifying the latest trends in marine pollution. Kollar explains, “International Coastal Cleanup Day has always been unique in that in addition to collecting trash, we’re collecting data. In the past, we’ve asked volunteers to fill out paper cards with trash data, but Clean Swell will make this process much easier, and help drive solutions.”
Plus, as individuals collect, Clean Swell teaches them about the impacts littering has on the oceans, and offers tips for what to do about it. Volunteers can share their findings on social media, and encourage others to step up and join the movement. The app also tracks total distance covered, total weight of trash gathered, and a record of participants’ personal cleanup efforts. The idea is to offer a fulfilling sense of accomplishment after a long day spent litter-picking.
Kollar hopes that Clean Swell can make trash data entry into a fun, simple process for the annual Coastal Cleanup and beyond. “I would like to see it expand in coming years, with additional languages to unite a larger volunteer base,” she says. Kollar’s favorite feature? A field that allows a group to name itself and compile trash data in the same virtual garbage bin. Encouraging this group mentality, she says, could go a long way toward broadening the reach of these cleanups, and getting more beach-goers involved
Since its inception, International Coastal Cleanup Day volunteers have collected more than 220 million pounds of trash. Even if you can’t make it to the beach, you can still participate. So grab your trash bags, find a nearby event, and get ready to do your part for the oceans.