YORKTOWN, N.Y. – A lot of people are experts when it comes to creating litter, but not so much when it comes to cleaning it up.
A high school-aged student from Yorktown is looking to do something about that. Divek Patel, a junior at the Hackley School (Tarrytown, N.Y.), is developing a smartphone app to incentivize litter cleanup by turning it into a competition of sorts.
The app, called Litter-Go, just netted Patel a $100 cash prize from the National Museum of Education’s nationwide “Student Ideas for a Better America” challenge.
“This app would transform roadside trash clean-up into an interactive game that will encourage people to pick up and throw out trash,” Patel said. “Participants would earn virtual coins, leaderboard rankings, and real prizes for identifying litter-ridden areas and for cleaning them up.”
To earn points, participants would have to take a photo of the litter-ridden area, automatically starting a timer and enabling location services on the phone. Snapping a photo of the item being thrown out or recycled would stop the timer and earn points for the user. Bonus virtual coins would be awarded when milestones are reached.
Patel is working to develop the intricate app, including an algorithm that can identify types of trash by taking a picture: candy wrappers, plastic bottles, cans, trash bags, etc.
The high school student was inspired to create the app when he visited his father’s workplace in the Bronx.
“I saw there were many areas where trash was spinning around and not being disposed of,” Patel said. “I was thinking how I can help with this problem, since picking up trash is boring and no one really wants to do it voluntarily unless they get something out of it.”
He had hoped to unveil a prototype of the app this summer at a local public gathering, which have been nearly all canceled or postponed because of COVID-19. He is hoping to partner with local governments, schools, and businesses to promote the app and beef up its rewards system.
“Having a great time while cleaning the streets and making a change is the best of two worlds, and Litter-Go brings these two aspects into reality,” Patel said.