NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!


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By: Jeff Kirschner, Guest Blogger

I was pushing my two kids in a double-stroller through the Oakland hills in California, and as we rolled alongside a winding creek, my daughter noticed a plastic tub of kitty litter in the water.

“Daddeeeeee,” she said in a puzzled voice. “That doesn’t go there.”

Sure, I’d seen litter before. But that moment, witnessed through a child’s eyes, opened mine. I began to notice litter everywhere: sidewalks, streets, and playgrounds. And I live in the San Francisco Bay area, a place that prides itself on being eco-conscious and environmentally friendly.

Then I remembered a lesson I learned as a kid at summer camp. Just before our parents visited, our camp director would instruct each of us to pick up five pieces of trash. 200 kids x 5 pieces per kid = a cleaner camp.

So why not apply that same crowd-sourced model to the entire planet? And leverage technology to do it.

That’s when Litterati was born. The vision is a litter-free world. Here’s how it works.

1. Find a piece of litter.

2. Photograph it with Instagram.

3. Add the hashtag “#litterati”

4. Throw away the litter.

At first it was just me. Each day I’d photograph 10 pieces of litter. I found that Instagram’s artistic element made finding trash rather enjoyable. Dare I say, some of the photos are even beautiful. I also realized that I was documenting my personal impact on cleaning the earth.

Pretty soon, more folks began participating and started contributing to the Digital Landfill – a photo gallery of all the litter that had been picked up and properly disposed of or recycled. Coffee cups, soda cans, plastic bags, and worse. A small, yet ever-growing community had quickly gathered a sizable haul.

The Morning Paper. November 2013.

The Morning Paper. Credit:, November 2013.

And with GPS, images of the picked-up litter appear on a global map displaying how we are truly all connected.

Trends began to emerge, revealing which items and brands all too often end up as litter. It also became evident which neighborhoods get littered again and again.

It’s powerful information that could lead to change. After all, people don’t want their community littered. A solution could be as simple as a well-placed trash can. Certainly businesses don’t want their brands synonymous with litter – maybe there are changes they could make.

First, it’s our turn. Look for litter, snap a photo, and become part of the solution.

Join the Litterati. Our planet will thank you.

 Jeff Kirschner is the founder of Litterati, a crowd-sourcing effort to build a photo database of litter and raise awareness for a clean planet. 

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

One thought on “#Litterati

  1. Pingback: Litterati | OEOO Knowledgebase

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