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July 4, 2008

Cleaning up with navigation

ESTONIA – Like a lot of countries, rubbish is a bit of a problem in Estonia. Not only is fly-tipping a big issue, but typically only 10 per cent of rubbish is recycled. Recently a new civic initiative dubbed “Let’s Do It! 2008”
was kicked off by Estonian tech millionaires Ahti Heinla and Rainer Nolvak. Nokia contributed 200 GPS-enabled devices to help the project.

The first step to getting on top of all the rubbish was identifying exactly where it could be found. Volunteers set about snapping and geotagging typical fly-tipping locations before mashing them up with a Google map. Now you can go to the Let’s Do It! site and see where the main fly-tipping areas are.

This isn’t help locals get rid of their rubbish illegally though. The idea behind geotagging and mapping the sites is to give some direction to the 50,000 volunteers who took part in the big clean up day. 40 waste management companies lent support with containers and vehicles and together with the volunteers set about cleaning up the 10,656 dumping sites that had been geotagged – all in one day.

Over 6,000 tons of illegal waste has been collected so far and there’s more to come. Rather than just stop at one day, the sites are still being cleared and the initiative is set to become a bit more permanent. What makes this even better though is that some 80 per cent of the collected waste is to be recycled, making it the first mass-scale recycling project in the country, and way more than the usual 10 per cent which is recycled normally.

Nokia devices were in use on the day to cover the event with pictures being uploaded to a site where users could vote for their favourites. What’s more, three lucky winners walked off with brand new Nokia N82s. And a cleaner country.

I reckon this is just an awesome use of GPS, geotagging, mobile devices, Google Earth, Google Maps and mashups. To mobilise that many people is just incredible, but to then have tools that make the work and communication so much easier is brilliant. Without the internet, openness, or the whole social media thing, this kind of initiative just wouldn’t have had legs. It makes me glad to be kicking around nowadays.

Now it’s comments time. Favourite geotagging/mapping mashups to be listed below please. Go on, you know you want to. Extra points if it relates to waste and recycling.