App uses crowdsourced data to track litter around Halifax

Tourists typically give glowing reviews of Halifax.

“I think it’s great, it’s wonderful. We just walked all the way through the public gardens, through the whole downtown and I didn’t once notice anything dirty,” says Andria Simms Hunt, who’s visiting from Edmonton, Alta.

“I thought everything was beautiful.”

But those who live in the city sometimes see it through a finer lens.

“I find a lot of trash around,” says Katharine Purdy.

Purdy, who works downtown, has a suggestion for those in charge.

“I walk downtown and it’s hard to find a garbage can sometimes,” she says. “So I can see why people probably just throw their garbage.”

To help track what that litter is, and where it’s coming from, the city has started using an app called Litterati.

Residents are encouraged to photograph, upload, and tag the litter they collect in their communities.

What we’re finding is so far, the largest litter item we’re finding are actually drink cups,” says Kirk Symonds who is the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) education and program delivery lead.

He says that kind of information can affect policy.

“When we know what people are tossing out we can educate on those specific items,” said Symonds.

“We can also track where the litter is happening. So in some cases, maybe we require some new litter bins or additional ones. Maybe we need some additional enforcement in that area.”

The Litterati app has a leaderboard that displays a running tally of the garbage that is being collected. Halifax is the first Canadian city to use the app.