Littercoin: A Cardano Project Attempting to Tackle a Massive Environmental Quandary

There can be few more depressing sights than a natural landscape blighted by litter, a blunt reminder of mankind’s almost viral presence. Since the dawn of time, life on this planet has coexisted in a state of harmony, the natural balance seemingly predetermined. That is, until the mid stages of the previous century, where humanity took a selfish and reckless turn.

There have been several iterations, spanning back to the 19th century. Yet, the first synthetic (containing no molecules found in nature) plastic (Bakelite) was invented in New York, 1907, by Leo Baekeland. Development and production of plastic increased rapidly after WWII. However, it was not until the 1960’s that their use became widespread, mainly in the form of the Polythene bags that we still use today. Ironically, it was initially proposed that plastics would help preserve the environment, due to their synthetic and reusable nature. Fast forward to 2021 and we find ourselves a species, if not planet, in massive trouble. Our throw-away culture is turning the world into nothing more than a giant garbage dump. It is a known fact that a 600,000 square foot island of litter, twice the size of Texas and three times the size of France stretches across the Pacific Ocean (The Great Pacific Garbage Patch). This is insane, to describe the situation as concerning is a gigantic understatement. Yet we plod along, burying our collective heads in the sand as we pass the baton of responsibility on to another generation. All the time, expecting that we personally won’t live to see the full repercussions of our actions.

The Extent of the Problem is Still Unknown

While it is true that efforts are now being made to stem, if not reverse the tide of man made pollution, no one really knows the full extent of the problem. The data is seriously lacking on one of the most critical issues we face today. However, hopefully this will change if a man by the name of Sean Lynch is successful in his Catalyst funding application. Sean first started litter mapping while working as a divemaster in Thailand, 2008. Following this, he went on to study two MSc on the methodology, before teaching himself how to code, which led to the creation of OpenLitterMap (OLM) in 2017 (web app). The mobile apps  followed in 2019/20. OLM is an open source, interactive and accessible database of the world’s litter and plastic. It was inspired by the open values and democratic research community at OpenStreetMap, the most comprehensive map of the world ever made, by over two million volunteers. Essentially, Sean intends to apply the same principles of crowdsourcing and open data to the issue of pollution. By applying a proof of work concept to the production of geographic information, OpenLitterMap rewards users with Littercoin, in return for them helping  to gather data on the location of the world’s litter. 

Earn Littercoin While Gathering Data

Despite an estimated 900 tonnes of plastic seeping into the oceans every hour, as well as trillions of plastic-tipped cigarette butts poisoning almost every inch of the planet, very little is actually known about the abundance and distribution. This is unacceptable, especially when there are billions of  people around the world carrying powerful data collecting devices in their pockets. It is this factor that makes the issue of pollution ripe for disruption. Although mass adoption of crypto is steadily increasing, there are still some common barriers to entry. Most people do not want to part with cash for fear of losing it, or feel overwhelmed signing up to an exchange. Littercoin eliminates these barriers. By taking geotagged photos of trash in an area, labelling and disposing of them, users can earn Littercoin, all while avoiding the issues stated above (see here). It’s expected that OLM will bring people into citizen science while onboarding them onto the Cardano network. What’s more, this is achieved without them having to know anything about blockchain. The long term plan is to put Littercoin miners in touch with innovative zero-waste and circular economic startups, as well as local businesses. The overall aim being to tackle waste at the source and reward positive environmental activity. However, this will require some much needed funding. 

Picking up the Tab for Tracking Pollution

The cost for litter oriented mass data collection is $50,000 USD. This is needed in order to hire developers to improve the app, making it more fun and easier to use. In return, OLM can increase Cardano adoption and positive environmental branding. The funds will be allocated as follows.

1. Web developer to improve the web-app at OpenLitterMap.com

A lot of work has gone into the web-app but we need to hire an experienced Laravel + Vue developer to fix some bugs, and introduce some new features. 3 months work at $4,000 / month = $12,000

2. Mobile developer to upgrade the react-native apps on Android and iOS

Several improvements such as gamification and real-time object detection need to be integrated into the mobile app which this fund can help with to improve the data collection experience. 3 months work at $4,000 month = $12,000

3. Computer vision expert
We are using our 155,000+ images to train the OpenLitterAI, a real-time object detection algorithm that will make collecting data on trash and mining Littercoin even more fun and accessible. 3 months at $4,000 month = $12,000

4. Smart Contract engineer
We will migrate Littercoin from Ethereum to Cardano, and automate the distribution of Littercoin to users who submit a Cardano wallet address to OpenLitterMap. 1-2 months = $1,000-$2,000

5. Graphic Designer
A graphic designer is needed to help improve our branding, help with app design, and create some seriously awesome designs that will make our gamification process unique and visually awesome. 2 months = $2,000.

6. Project Management (all of the above + oversight = me) = $5,000

7. Overhead / Misc. $5,000

Total = $50,000

A Planet with an Unknown Future

The conveniences plastics once offered are now overshadowed by the dismal legacy they leave behind. Half of all the plastics manufactured were created in the last 15 years, and production is set to double by 2050. The global effect of our obsession with these materials can be seen virtually everywhere. In fact, one need only close their eyes to summon up images of ocean life, trapped unnaturally in what is quite literally, a sea of litter. If we do not act now and act seriously we are condemning future generations (both human and animal alike) to a bleak existence. The Eden like paradise known to our ancestors is almost unrecognizable now, degenerating into a lifeless, suffocated carcass. Open Litter Map could quite easily be one of the most promising solutions to this pressing issue, one where the price of overlooking it is by far too expensive to pay. Something that Sean would like to convey is that the app is there to be used,  by everyone, even if the funding proposal is unsuccessful. OLM is always in need of partners, developers and testers, so if you want to help, get in touch.

“Cryptocurrencies have a bad reputation as being bad for the environment. But what if they could incentivise the most rapid production of global data and cleanup events the world has ever seen?”

Sean Lynch

If you’d like to know more information or have questions/comments regarding the Littercoin proposal, check out the link . Log in Project Catalyst (Ideascale.com) here.

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