Dan Rushton

Using Location Intelligence to Combat Litter with PMI

Litter within cities around the world remains a serious environmental problem with discarded COVID-19 masks and gloves becoming the newest addition to other common items such as aluminum cans, paper cups, fast food wrappers, cardboard boxes or plastic bottles. Given every piece of discarded litter has a location component, cities and governments can leverage technology and Spatial Data Science to monitor and mitigate the issues caused by this environmental hazard, helping to improve the quality of life of citizens.

Our World Is Not an Ashtray

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, with 4.5 trillion discarded each year. In July Philip Morris International (PMI) launched “Our World Is Not an Ashtray,” a new global initiative to raise awareness and drive a long-term change in behavior and attitudes around cigarette butt littering. In a new international study conducted by global research data and insights company Kantar this spring on behalf of PMI, 25 percent of adult smokers reported that they throw cigarette butts on the ground because they “think it is a normal way to dispose of a cigarette.”

Photo of discarded cigarette butts


As part of this initiative PMI is increasing the scale and reach of its participation in clean-up activities, to raise awareness of the issues of littering—and cigarette butt littering particularly—in local communities. In partnership with Litterati, Cortexia, and CARTO—they have implemented a data-driven approach to assess the prevalence of cigarette butt litter across the globe; identify litter hotspots; and, monitor the impact of anti-littering activities.

Lisbon - European Green Capital 2020

Lisbon, Portugal, was chosen to be the first pilot city in the initiative before being rolled out in representative countries across the world in 2021. In 2018, Lisbon was distinguished with the European Green Capital 2020 award and is an important center for business, tourism, culture and the environment.

Photo of Lisbon


Supported by the Lisbon City Council the initiative will run this week in collaboration with Tabaqueira, a subsidiary of PMI.

During the week, a vehicle adapted by Cortexia with state-of-the-art technology and artificial intelligence software will travel through streets within the city, detecting waste and collecting data.

Machine Learning & Spatial Data

Alongside the data collected by Cortexia, Litterati will also utilize its crowdsourced platform we have previously featured. The Litterati app allows citizens to take pictures of trash during clean ups which are uploaded to a database where machine learning algorithms generate insights on litter patterns, which are inherently spatial.

There’s a widespread view that there’s nothing wrong with stubbing out cigarettes on streets or beaches, yet very few people realize that plastic is the main component in cigarette butts. Together with PMI, we will use our technology to gather behavioral insight on cigarette butt littering, map problem areas, and mitigate future risk.
Jeff Kirschner, Founder and CEO of Litterati

Screenshot of Litterati dashboard

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About the author
Dan Rushton

Dan is the Content Marketing Manager at CARTO. Dan holds a Masters in Electronic Engineering with business experience in development, sales, training and marketing. Prior to joining CARTO, Dan was a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Apple.

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