SOUTHWEST FLORIDA – This Earth Day, there’s a new way to pick up litter around Southwest Florida. Students and faculty at Florida Gulf Coast University are using a new app to encourage people to help and track trash in our communities.

“We’ve recently found this app called Litterati,” said Kayla Hughes, an FGCU sophomore and president of the ECO FGCU club. 

The app uses artificial intelligence to identify and locate local pollution problems. If you’re familiar with the mobile game ‘Pokemon Go,’ Litterati holds a similar concept.

“It’s a way to track trash while we are cleaning it up on campus. It also geotags,” Hughes said.

Litterati uses geographical identification metadata along with media files it uploads. You simply snap a picture on your phone, the app will tag the litter, then you toss it.

“We can use this data over years and study where these problems are leading us and actually take actions and steps to stop them,” Hughes said.

It also keeps score for each piece you pick up, so using the app becomes a challenge.

“It’s a little bit of a competitive spirit about who can clean up the most litter, so they don’t have to wait for one of our litter events,” Kathleen Crawford, the Environmental Sustainability coordinator at FGCU, said.

The app can be used across the globe, beyond FGCU. The university just launched a challenge pushing for people to join in all across Southwest Florida.

“We set the challenge to run through July 31st and our goal is that 20,000 pieces of littler will be picked up and tagged,” Hughes said.

Hughes has always had a passion for sustainability and helping the environment thrive. Now, she’s helping other students and friends like, Charles Neiswander, get involved in her club and the challenge.

“I don’t rank very high, but I try my best and hope to get on the leaderboard soon,” Neiswander said.

He’s from Florida and he knows how crucial it is, in this case, to catch ’em all.

“I found a lot in our storm water system, which is a major issue,” Neiswander said, referring to trash he found along the way.

The earth is all connected, and here, trash doesn’t have to travel far to become a big problem.

“Anything that ends up on our ground ends up in our waterways,” Crawford said.

The university’s programs and clubs are making the mission to clean up litter much more meaningful.

“And that’s all we ask for is that people become more aware and they are more aware of their actions and are less likely to litter themselves,” Hughes said.

The Litterati app is shedding light on a problem you might just walk right past.

“That’s one of the main problems with litter. You’re not aware of it until you start looking for it. Once you go out there, you realize you are picking up pounds of trash at a time and then on out you will start noticing that,” Hughes said.

If you want to participate in the challenge, just use the code SWFL on the app, Litterati. It’s set to work within an 80 mile radius of Fort Myers.

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