How An Instagram Hashtag Is Paving The Path To A Litter Free World

Posted on August 29, 2014 in Environment

By Mayank Jain:

We never forget to put pictures of our Starbucks coffee on Instagram, but how often do we remember to throw the cups in the bin? There’s trash all around us and yet we choose to walk away after surreptitiously dumping that trash. The problem of the garbage that we generate every day and leave it on the streets is a crisis waiting to happen. Urban India generates over 1.5 lac tonnes of garbage every day and this rate is growing rapidly. What we fail to realize, however, is that it is dangerous to leave garbage on the roads in such a densely packed and disease prone country.

The problem of trashing the planet with our waste is much deeper than just the loss of aesthetics. Multiple respiratory problems are caused from the micro-organisms that come with the smell that emanates with poorly disposed garbage, and can make us ill. Waste like plastic etc. are even worse as they are hard to decompose and end up polluting the environment for the next few centuries. Burning waste isn’t a solution as it releases toxins into the air and ecological balance of the area takes a hit. The solution? It is as simple as putting the waste in the right dustbins and recycling trash wherever possible.

Why are we so reluctant to pick up the waste we have ourselves created? To challenge this hypocritical and grossly dangerous aversion to clean surroundings, Jeff Kirschner took to Instagram to convert the process of cleaning up the planet into a rewarding process. It works on the incentive of motivation and getting inspired by seeing your social circle doing their bit to clean up the planet. His initiative Litterati is an innovative answer to the problem of scattered waste around the cities and towns. #Litterati is a simple hashtag on Instagram that encourages people to pick up the trash they find on the road, in the bus or anywhere else, and click its picture to post it on Instagram before they dump it in its rightful place: the dustbin.


An idea as unbelievably simple as this one has now turned into a movement and people around the world have started to take note of the trash they just pass by every day. The Instagram hashtag #Litterati is flooding with pictures of waste before it is dumped. The Samaritans have started taking action themselves, instead of relying on someone else to come clean up their cities.

Litterati has proved to be a useful tool in the hands of 1.5 billion smart phone users on the planet who can now turn into cleaning ninjas at any point of their day and motivate their social circle to do the same in a fun way.

A product of harnessing technology is the ‘digital landfill’ of Litterati. It is a virtual wall of all the photos of the trash successfully dumped into the dustbins from across the world. It continues to grow and rise taller as people become aware of “the blight that plagues our playgrounds, stains our streets, and contaminates our waterways.”

Doing More With Instagram

One obstacle in solving the problems of waste recycling and garbage dumping has always been the lack of data which makes it impossible to target actions and solutions end up being broad and ineffective. Litterati has solved that problem effectively due to inherent digital footprints that come with the use of technology.

The photos on Instagram are geo-tagged and time stamped which reveals their location as well as the time of the day when people picked up the trash. The data from all the pictures is collected to be analysed and soon, trends start to emerge. According to the statistics on website, as much as 64,198 pieces of trash have been picked up from USA to Israel.

This data is crucial to solve the overall problem of lack of awareness and it can also be useful to increase the efficiency of government and authorities working on the problem from the top. The data about the locations also reveals the areas where waste is majorly concentrated and dustbins, cleanliness drives etc. can then be strategically planned.

Another utility of the data is the pictographic nature. One can clearly see the brand and the kind of product which was thrown out in the open. Those products/brands which feature more than others can be identified and better packaging and waste recycling solutions can be worked out.

The movement has only started and there is a long way to go. The only way to tackle the problem is to talk about it and create awareness.

“Fortunately, people are taking action. Schools are getting involved, neighbourhood environmental groups are attracting younger, tech-savvy participants, and corporations such as Whole Foods have introduced Litterati-based campaigns promoting social responsibility,” Jeff reveals.

So, the next time we see trash lying on the road, let’s click it before you dump it.

To know more about this story and what I think, follow me on Twitter at @mayank1029