Case Study

ghana marine litter project

What problem were they solving?

Plastics are the largest, most harmful and most persistent type of marine litter, accounting for at least 85 percent of total marine waste and reducing the carbon absorption capacities of oceans. Marine litter continues to inflict enormous damage on Africa's coastlines, particularly in Ghana, whose coastline stretches more than 550 km and is home to an estimated three million people. Continuous data to monitor marine litter and other environmental indicators in the country is lacking, as well as the ability to use this data to coordinate actions that could reduce the marine plastic burden.

What did they do?

The Smart Nature Freak Youth Volunteer Foundation used the Ocean Conservancy's ICC methodology during their beach cleanups to track marine litter by using data cards and the Clean Swell app to record data on location, weight of debris collected, type of waste and distance covered. This data was then integrated into the Earth Challenge platform to coordinate the monitoring of marine litter nationally in Ghana. The Earth Challenge platform also helped connect partners to local cleanup organizations, such as the Smart Nature Freak Youth Volunteer Foundation and led to direct action such as beach cleanups.The project used off-the-shelf solutions such as Clean Swell which required fewer resources to implement and enabled the reuse of historical data.

What was the benefit of using collective intelligence for this issue?

The project tapped into existing sustainable networks such as Smart Nature Freak Youth Volunteers and Plastic Punch, so that data could be efficiently collected as a by-product of existing activities. In 2020 alone more than 152 million plastic items were found along the beaches in the country. The project coordinated an approach to achieve measurable improvements to waste management in the state of Ghana’s seas, waters, beaches, marine biodiversity and fish stocks. This was not only helpful for the country’s official SDG monitoring and reporting activities, but also for taking necessary policy actions to address the marine plastic issue in the country. The citizen science data generated through the project helped to understand the items of plastic litter found on Ghana’s beaches, as a percentage of total plastic litter over four years. These data also helped to identify that plastic pieces are by far the most common items found on Ghana’s beaches. The data also helped to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the environment, because in 2020, gloves and masks (personal protective equipment) were found for the first time on Ghana’s beaches.

What does this experience tell us about collective intelligence for climate action?

Collective intelligence enabled the use of locally-produced data for monitoring marine litter in Ghana, fostering more efficient data collection through the development of a standardized monitoring protocol. The data collection approach was developed in collaboration with staff from the National Statistics Office, helping to ensure that it could be used for official monitoring as part of Ghana’s reporting on SDG targets. The project also contributed towards group level impacts such as increased community resilience and reduced local littering through beach cleanups.

COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE USE CASEReal-time Environmental Monitoring
IPCC CATEGORYMitigation, Urban Systems, Waste Prevention, Minimization And Management
PEOPLEVolunteers, Local Community, National Statistics Office
DATACrowdsourced Observations, Geospatial
TECHNOLOGYApp, Geospatial Platform