What if picking up litter could be fun, artistic, and social?

Jeff Kirschner, entrepreneur and creator of Litterati, designed an app that essentially works like Instagram,

Jeff Kirschner, entrepreneur and creator of Litterati, designed an app that essentially works like Instagram, but focuses on cleaning up the planet; one piece of debris at a time.

Each photo is item tagged, time stamped, and geographically identified, creating a database that shows you the high traffic areas of litter and tells you what the most commonly found items are.

According to the Litterati website, plastic, paper, and cigarettes are the top three most commonly tagged items of debris. Documenting over 96,057 items of plastic, 29,102 pieces of paper, and 23,774 individual cigarettes; all traceable.

The impact of this data led to helping the city of San Francisco raise tax on the sale of cigarettes. Kirschner tells the story about how the city of San Francisco put a couple of people out on the streets holding clipboards and pencils, documenting what percentage of litter was found to be cigarettes. This led to a 20 cent tax on cigarettes sales.

“And then they got sued by Big Tobacco who claimed that collecting information with pencils and clipboards was neither precise nor provable. The city called me and asked if our technology could help,” said Kirschner.

According to Kirschner, four days and 5000 pieces later, their data was able to defend the city of San Francisco and double the tax, creating an annual revenue of $4 million for the city of San Francisco to clean itself up.

Now that the snow has started to melt, I used the app for the first time today on my way to work. I took a picture of two frozen paper cups in a puddle of ice, and was almost late to work trying to yank the things out.

Doing something positive for the environment feels good. And I got a second sense of gratification knowing that this is being documented on a social database that might impact the way in which brands consciously distribute their products.

Kirschner states that this data provides a resource for brands to align their economical and environmental interests. A way for distributors to rethink the way in which condiment packets are dispensed and allocated.

I think utilizing this app in Houston amongst schools, outdoor recreation programs, and visitors of our parks and campsites could reduce the footprint of litter.