Become a citizen scientist with our new Dirty Dozen Cleanup™ app

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Covid-19 and the resultant lockdowns have made us think of innovative ways to continue cleaning beaches and supporting citizen science efforts to contribute to eliminating plastic waste. Even during lockdown, significant volumes of plastic waste were found along our coastlines – and most of it originating from land-based litter. Our Dirty Dozen toolkit, designed by Prof. Peter Ryan from the University of Cape Town, tracks 12 commonly found plastic litter items around South Africa. This helps us to identify the source of the litter and advocate for changes in consumption and waste management habits.

We have taken it to a new level, given that beach cleanup groups are likely to be restricted in size for the foreseeable future. We know that you still want to make a difference, not only in keeping our beaches clean but in providing the proof needed to bring about sustainable production and consumption. And so, we have taken our Dirty Dozen Cleanup® Toolkit digital.

Our Dirty Dozen Cleanup™ Toolkit is designed to be used by individuals, groups of families and friends and by other beach cleanup organisations around the world. The goal? To collect rigorous data that supports the call for change to the way we buy, use and discard plastics.

It is easy to get going:

  • Download the Marine Debris Tracker App on IOS or Android.
  • Select “Tracking” and choose “The Beach Co-op”.
  • Log your Dirty Dozen items as you clean up the beach.
  • Add a description of the cleanup (pointers are given)
  • Press submit!

There is also an option to download the Dirty Dozen Data sheet and complete it online or print it out and fill it in the old-fashioned way!

If you are a sole citizen scientist, you will play the role of leader, scribe and collector. If you are working in a group, these roles can be split. 

  • The leader introduces the team to the Dirty Dozen items and instructs the team to collect everything but to only call out Dirty Dozen items. Note that while you can add additional items to the list, these are not passed on for analysis. 
  • The scribe notes down what is called out and keeps a running tally of each item as well as carrying the trash bag. 
  • The cleaners pick up everything, but only call out Dirty Dozen items. The roles of cleaner and scribe can be swapped during the cleanup.  

What happens next? When the cleanup is finished, and the data sheet is complete:

  • Decant bags with less waste into consolidated bags and save the empty ones for future cleanups. 
  • Count and log the number of bags collected. 
  • Take a photograph of the group and the bags.
  • Submit this data – either through the app or on the online form. 

What do you need – besides a passion for keeping the environment clean and a desire to contribute to citizen science? The app on your phone or a data sheet, a pen/pencil, cellphone (with emergency numbers), camera, and buckets or bags to collect the litter. Remember to bring comfortable shoes that can get wet, a hat and sunscreen, and warm weather gear if a cold day. Remember to be safe – don’t wander off alone and follow Covid-19 precautions, wear a mask and maintain a 1.5-meter distance between yourself and fellow citizen scientists!

We look forward to receiving your data and thank you for your contribution!