There is, of course, a cultural component to how people approach trash/litter/hazards, but so much of what goes for accepted wisdom regarding cultural litter practices is just … trash.
Myth 1: Undeveloped Countries are the Problem
Take, for instance, this popular mantra – that there is simply “no littering” in places like Tokyo, Singapore, or Switzerland. These beliefs quickly mature into full-blown dogmas:
We only litter in Malaysia pic.twitter.com/hq9JDczGVj
— Mothership.sg (@MothershipSG) November 28, 2017
But the reality is that litter happens everywhere. Even in very “developed” places like Singapore and Switzerland:
— CleanApp (@CleanApp) November 22, 2017
Myth 2: Trash is Universal
While certain items of trash should certainly be considered universally bad (like lead acid batteries or glass/plastic in bodies of water), the reality is that a lot of what’s considered trash is culturally contingent.
Plastic ribbons tied to tree branches may be environmental hazards in one culture or they may be modern manifestations of an ancient religious rite. Teddy bears littering the sidewalk may be offensive in some cultures or they could represent a sacred shrine or memorial for a child killed by motorists. The teddy bears are supposed to litter the street, so they burn into one’s conscience, producing the desired cautionary effect.
The examples could go on forever.
Trash or treasure; litter or art; to remove or let be. Many of these answers are intimately bound up with some of our most deeply-ingrained social mores and cultural beliefs.
Any CleanTech that has global aspirations must be prepared to account for cultural nuances.
In China, DNA is used to create & make public approximate facial identities of those who litter. Will it work? http://t.co/UPWP0eBApi
— TransAccel Group (@TransAccel) April 29, 2015
— World Cleanup Day (@WorldCleanupDay) August 30, 2017
Public shaming may work well in some cultures, for instance; in other cultures, behind-the-scenes liability might be preferable; in other cultures still, even talking about particular types of trash may be taboo.
This is why it’s so important for us to have tools that allow extremely large groups of people to do CleanApp reports. This is the only way that machine learning can even begin to appreciate the myriad cultural nuances that bracket our relationship with trash.
Myth 3: “Trash is Not My Problem”
A lot of good people believe that if they don’t litter, than the trash problem is somehow somebody else’s problem. Another way this myth takes hold is through the belief that it’s “the city,” the “parks commission,” or the “public responsible party” that’s responsible for the litter. That may be the case in some contexts, but in order to start talking about who’s responsible for trash cleanup, it’s important to remember that the responsibility for reporting the illegal trash falls directly on you.
Why is trash your problem?
The simple answer is that trash anywhere, goes straight into our drinking water everywhere.
As consumers, we typically neglect to think about the provenance of our water, but if we recall the water cycle from 5th grade, we remember that water is not a local resource. Quite the contrary, water flows globally in increasingly more intricate ways than the already hyper-dynamic nature of natural water cycles. The Cheerios you consume for breakfast, the couch cushions you recline on each day, the toothpaste you brush your teeth with – all of these require water to make.
So even if you’re a really lucky purist who can afford to brush her teeth with “double reverse osmosis Whole Foods water,” you’re still exposed to a ton of polluted water on a daily basis.
That’s why CleanApp-ing litter wherever you see it is so crucial to unlocking the pollution factors that are soiling our water tables.
— CleanApp (@CleanApp) October 17, 2017
The other reason trash anywhere is your problem everywhere is a bit more pragmatic, and has to do with the need to develop far better trash-removal processes.
Simply put, by reporting illegal trash wherever you may stumble upon it, you’re helping to make the next generation of trash-removal robots & AI much much smarter.
That has applications everywhere, including in your very own home.
— CleanApp (@CleanApp) August 31, 2017
Littering is no longer just “the city’s” problem. The proliferation of CivicTech & CleanTech means that there are many different public, private, & nonprofit actors that are interested in receiving CleanApp reports and responding to them. The more reports we generate, the better the responses will be.
— CleanApp (@CleanApp) October 10, 2017
Myth 4: CleanApp is SciFi
When people first start considering the many implications of CleanApp tech, it’s natural to retreat, assess the state of our current tech & trash practices, and to dismiss CleanApp as a fancy SciFi or theoretical exercise.
@CleanApp, we know the tech is here, the will is here, and the market is here for CleanApp adoption on a massive scale.
BigTech is already making moves in this space, and our job is to make the business case for the relevant stakeholders even clearer so that we can deploy secure interoperable solutions to market ASAP.
With just 2017 tech, huge market players like Amazon are already penetrating the home cleaning market. We know Amazon would be much more effective as a cleaning provider if they leveraged CleanApp tech, and that’s precisely what we’re urging them to do:
— CleanApp (@CleanApp) December 1, 2017
Furthermore, the exponential advances in DroneTech have resulted in far greater CleanApp capabilities today than were thought possible just five years ago. Given the anticipated rate of development, the future for CleanTech seems very bright indeed. So, when skeptics point out that its unrealistic to expect billions of people to be CleanApp-ing, let’s remember that it’s a fine line between SciFi & fact-based predictive analytics.
Or, to put it even more vividly, when @ElonMusk tweets about advances in AI & robotics, we should pay attention:
we dead pic.twitter.com/lUys7DptdZ
— alex medina (@mrmedina) November 16, 2017
@CleanApp, we want these leaps in robotics to be channeled for #globalcleanup efforts. Even at #strobespeed, it’ll take these #bots decades to work through the trash we’re spilling out. Join us: https://t.co/0ntlVygC2r
— CleanApp (@CleanApp) November 27, 2017
Do you have a specific cultural nuance you’d like us to consider as we develop the CleanApp 1.0 standard? Please let us know.