Adapting Our Clean Swell Data Collection App for the Pandemic

We’ve added eight new trash categories, including PPE, to reflect our new reality

For everyone, 2020 has been a year all about adapting and reimagining. In coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, everything from the way we communicate, do our jobs and even shop for groceries has changed to ensure we stay safe.

The same is true for Ocean Conservancy and the annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Just as we have adapted our cleanup guidelines through our #CleanOn campaign, we’ve made a few key updates to our award-nominated data collection app, Clean Swell:

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  • Clean Swell was designed to be used throughout a cleanup exercise, but for those of us doing solo cleanups, that can be hard to do. So we’ve created an option to “Record a Past Cleanup” that allows for users to still track their impact by recording the number of bags filled after a cleanup activity.

  • Eight new trash categories have been added to the collection screen. This means that volunteers can now keep tally of 28 unique trash items. The new items are single-use beverage sachets, e-cigarettes, metal bottle caps, strapping bands, construction material, tires, tobacco packaging (like lighters) and gloves, masks and other PPE.

  • We are especially excited to add PPE like gloves and disposable face masks to the tracking screen so that volunteers can begin tracking what seems to be an increasingly prevalent litter item as a consequence of the pandemic. We’ll be able to capture thousands of data points across the ICC season and in the years to come.

Data collection is what makes the ICC so unique among cleanup efforts. Since 1986 we have built the world’s largest database of marine debris, thanks to the diligent citizen science of ICC participants everywhere. Whereas in previous years ICC coordinators often distributed paper data cards at cleanups, we believe Clean Swell will really shine this year in helping us gauge our global impact as many #CleanOn individually or in small groups.

In some ways, this year’s ICC remains the same: local and individual actions are still joining together and contributing to a global movement that continues to bring attention to the threat of plastic pollution to our ocean. Data collected by all volunteers still feed into the world’s largest online database for marine debris and still help us work with scientists, fellow NGO partners, industry innovators and policy makers to inform solutions at the root of the issue.

We want to thank you and all International Coastal Cleanup volunteers around the globe who #CleanOn with us this year—online, on the beach and everywhere in between.

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