World’s first city-wide plastic survey launches in Portsmouth

A project to help map ‘hotspots’ of plastic rubbish in Portsmouth is being launched this weekend. The MAPP (Mapping Portsmouth Plastic) project will be a world first – a city-wide plastic survey, designed to help find solutions to reduce plastic waste in urban areas.

It is the latest development from the University of Portsmouth’s Revolution Plastics initiative. Researchers will analyse data gathered via the Jetsam app to better understand the patterns and movement of plastic waste in Portsmouth. The information will help them develop ways of reducing large amounts of plastic from entering the environment.

The University of Portsmouth has partnered with Jetsam Tech, a Portsmouth-based environmental technology company. The Jetsam app allows anyone to contribute to mapping plastic pollution in the city. Local people can simply download it on their mobile phones and submit photographs of the plastic waste they encounter in their daily lives.

Users of the app will be asked to take part in surveys on specific dates. The first will be on 12 and 13 November. All photos that are contributed, along with embedded location data, will form a ‘plastic heatmap’ of the local area. The Revolution Plastics team will then be able to see where and when plastic waste is building up, and the different types of plastic pollution that are found in the city. In total, there will be five separate surveys of the city-wide plastic situation over the coming months.

Tackling the issue is complex. Until now there has been almost no reliable data about where plastic pollution is found in cities or why it ends up in these places. This makes it impossible to effectively solve a problem that affects all of our lives. Scientists hope this crowd-sourced data will make a massive difference and play a key role in the Revolution Plastics initiative. As a global leader in this crucial research, the University of Portsmouth has assembled teams of scientists, businesses and citizens to find solutions to the world’s plastic problem.

Professor Steve Fletcher, Director of Revolution Plastics at the University of Portsmouth, said: “The launch of this project is incredibly exciting. With climate change very much on the agenda at the moment, it is developments like this that can and will make a real difference. The app will create the evidence base for solutions to reduce plastic entering the sea and the wider environment. The more people that use the app, the more researchers will understand about plastic flows within the city and ultimately work to tackle plastic waste at source.”

A recent survey commissioned by the University of Portsmouth showed that residents are concerned about plastic waste in the city. More than half of those questioned admitted to trying to reduce their plastic waste in recent years. Despite this, 84 per cent of people agreed that ‘Littering is a serious problem that needs addressing in Portsmouth’.

Jetsam Tech believes the launch of the MAPP project is just the first stage of an important journey, allowing people to make a difference in their own community and empowering them to help tackle the enormous problem of plastics.

Louis Capitanchik, Co-founder of Jetsam Tech, said: “As an island city with an active community, Portsmouth is the ideal laboratory for an initiative like this. Sadly, it doesn’t take much detective work to find plastic waste – such as bottles and packaging in gutters or washed up on the beach. Once we’ve proven that a community driven project can make meaningful environmental change we can take Jetsam on the road and make a difference around the world.”

Steve Bomford, Co-founder of Jetsam Tech, added: “Taking a photo every day really does make a difference – If we can get a 1000 people taking 1 photo per day, that will add up to a lot of data!”

Anyone with a smart mobile device can download the Jetsam app. It’s free and easy to use. Simply open the app and take a picture of whatever plastic you find when out and about. If your geolocation is enabled, the photo’s location will be identified, building up a map of plastic hotspots.

The MAPP project will be launched on the 23 October at a family friendly event in Portsmouth – Tickets can be booked here.

The project is funded by a charitable donation from the Flotilla Foundation.