by Laura Smith in Linlithgow, West Lothian, United Kingdom

Total raised £961

raised so far



Reducing plastic waste through citizen science. Your support helps our NGO partners in the global south tackle the rising tide of plastic.

by Laura Smith in Linlithgow, West Lothian, United Kingdom

Africa’s waterways are clogged with plastic waste. The header photo was taken by Kenyan activist and photojournalist, James Wakibia. It shows the Njoro River, which flows from the Mau Forest, through residential areas and into Lake Nakuru, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Except you can barely see the river. 

Sadly, this is a common sight in many countries in Africa. 

80% of ocean plastic comes from land based sources. 

It’s very easy for discarded, single-use bottles to end up in a waterway, such as the mangroves or rivers that support many coastal towns and cities. Once plastic enters the ocean, it’s incredibly costly and difficult to clean up.

Our solution

We use modern smartphone and cloud technology to make it easy to track who owns the plastic waste that ends up in the environment plastic.

Our crowdsourced data platform, Wastebase DATA, collects information from local clean ups using a simple app. We link each product barcode to information about the company that owns it. This means that plastic producers can be held to account. We believe that everyone, from producers to retailers to consumers, is responsible for what happens to the plastic they make, sell or consume.

Your donations:

  • help our NGO partners remove waste from highly polluted environments
  • support a global databank of evidence about where plastic ends up
  • can be tracked, so you can see the direct impact of your support

So far, we've:

  • collected and recorded over 347,000 items of plastic waste - around 8.6 tonnes
  • gathered data from 32 countries
  • trained Data Partners in 9 countries in Africa

How data can change the world

Here’s the simple version.

You might be someone who wants to do something about plastic waste in your community. You might join a clean up day, and spend a few hours picking up the plastic that people throw away every day. You might recycle, or record what you’ve collected. You’ll have made a big difference to your local environment.

Imagine you could multiply that impact. Imagine you could show the companies that made those products exactly where they ended up - under a bush, on a beach, in a river on their way to the sea.

That’s what we do.

We collect hundreds of thousands of data points from clean ups across sub-Saharan Africa. Using our app, our local partners scan the barcodes of the waste they collect. 

Our data specialists then link each barcode to extra information, such as brand, owner, plastic type, volume and weight. If anyone else scans the same product, they’ll be able to see who made that bottle, who sold it and information about how the bottle is made.

This means we can see ALL the products discarded by one company, even if they have different brands. For example, the Coca-Cola Company owns lots of brands, such as Fanta, Sprite and Schweppes. Wastebase adds all of these together to show Coca-Cola how much their products are contributing to overall plastic pollution.

We collect data about location (where the bottle was found), volume, material, manufacturer (who is responsible for making the bottle), brand and weight.

How data makes a difference

We won’t let plastic producers hide behind a lack of data. We’ll show them exactly where their products end up. This map shows where we found bottles (in red) linked to where manufacturers are based (in blue). See the live map at kaggle.com/wastebase

This map shows where we found bottles (in red) linked to where manufacturers are based (in blue). Many of the bottles found in Africa are made by manufacturers based in the US.

We believe in a circular economy for plastic

Cleaning up the world’s plastic waste is an enormous challenge. But we can make it easier for the people who make, use and process plastic to adopt better practices so that waste can be collected and managed in a way that reduces harm to the environment. 

Your donations directly support collection and recording of waste. 

See a full breakdown of where your donation goes.

We're a social enterprise

We put our profits into creating positive impact for people, places and the environment. 

We are based in the UK, but we work with environmental NGOs in countries where the impacts of the waste crisis are having the most devastating impact. Currently, we collect data regularly from 12 countries, mainly in the global south.

Find out more about our partners here.

*What a waste: a global snapshot of solid waste to 2050 World Bank 2020

**No time to waste: the burning issue of the plastic crisis

Tearfund Consortium 2019

Please support us today and help us use data to end the plastic crisis. By choosing a regular donation* once you've made your pledge, you can support ongoing work by our NGO partners. Each month we'll send you a personalised report showing the waste items and the data that your donation has enabled.

*choose card payment to access the regular donation option.

Thank you.

The Unwaste.io team

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