Mobile Apps and Marine Debris

 Mobile Apps for combating Marine Debris

Mobile applications have the power to turn your phone into a handy pocket-sized tool for fighting marine debris.

Data on types and quantity of marine debris sighted in the ocean and on beaches is important to better understand where and how to implement waste mitigation programs to have the highest positive impact. Africa is particularly data poor in this regard, and gaining information of this nature would be useful to inform waste programs and policy on the continent.

In an interview for Scientific American, Alex Mayer, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Michigan Technological University, said, “Smartphones can automate data collection and incorporate many important data-gathering functions—such as capturing images, audio and text—into a single tool that can “stamp” the date, time and geographic coordinates associated with an observation.”

As smart phone use becomes increasingly ubiquitous, a variety of mobile apps have been developed to take advantage of the abundance of potential citizen scientists who could collect vital data. These apps enable the general public to record and report data on pollution while conducting a beach clean, diving for debris, or encountering waste dumps on their daily commute. By harnessing the power of the general public, databases can be collectively built that amount to informing real change.

The following is a list of 6 well-known marine debris mobile apps. All are free and most are available for download on both Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Marine Debris Tracker (NOAA & South Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative)


The product of a collaboration between NOAA and SEA-MDI, this app seeks to spread awareness and serve as an easy and simple tool for data collection. Users “check in” when they encounter marine debris and categorise the waste type using the app’s lists of commonly found debris. The app also includes relevant tools for the sailing community, and will soon allow increased customisation of specific lists of debris for tracking. As much marine debris tracking occurs in remote locations, the app can also log data and store it for upload later when cell signal is available. Data is kept and analysed by the University of Georgia. Read more...

Clean Swell (Ocean Conservancy)


CleanSwell, developed by Ocean Conservancy, let’s you create an account to record the items of trash you collect, as well as other motivating stats including your total distance cleaned and the total weight of the trash collected. The app also allows you to share your clean up results via Facebook, Twitter and email. Read more...

TrashOut (Let’s Do It! World)

Let’s Do It! World’s TrashOut lets users contribute to an online world waste map by anonymously reporting trash piles and illegal dump sites using GPS to pinpoint locations. Users estimate the size and type of waste with methods detailed in the app, and then upload the information with a photograph of the site. Read more...

Dive Against Debris (Project AWARE)

This recently released app is targeted towards SCUBA divers, allowing them to report debris items removed on a dive along with the dive location, dive conditions, presence of entangled and deceased wildlife, and any necessary photographs. Information can be stored and uploaded when cell connection is available and the data collected becomes part of a global database that is shared with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and Trash Free Seas Alliance via Partnerships Against Trash. Your dive results can also be shared on social media via the app. Read more...

Marine LitterWatch (European Environment Agency)

This app is focussed on the European continent and has been developed to target communities interested in marine litter activities. You can find and join already existing communities in your area or create a new one. The app allows for the creation of surveys on litter items found at beach environments and information collected is stored on a public database hosted by the EEA. Read more...

Marine Defenders App (Marine Defenders)

The Marine Defenders App allows users to report oil spills and marine debris. Reports are sent to the database and uploaded onto an interactive Google map. Oil spill reports are sent to the US National Response Centre who in turn informs the US Coast Guard to take action. Read more...
(Only available from the Apple App Store)

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