Marine litter monitoring application – CroSeaCleanApp, added value to environmental actions

In the period from 5th to 7th of November 2021, the University of Split Office for Projects and Technology Transfer, the ICT County and the Student Entrepreneurial Incubator organized the 6th Ocean Hackathon® competition, with the support of the Enterprise Europe Network. Except in Split, the competition takes place simultaneously on 5 continents in 18 world cities, and the main organizer is the “Campus Mondial de la Mer” from Brest.

Ocean Hackathon® is a competition in which teams, made of experts from different fields, using digital data, develop innovative ideas with the aim of solving the challenges or needs in the coastal area. When applying, contesters identify a challenge or need they have recognized and plan to find a solution. Before the competition begins, all competitors are grouped into teams according to the field in which their challenge is. With the aim of developing a new product and service, testing an innovative concept, and sharing knowledge about the seas and oceans, the team has 48 hours to develop a solution for the reported challenge or problem.

When applying Association Sunce presented the Protocol for marine litter monitoring on the beaches that were used in a project LIFE Artina in Nature Park on the Island of Lastovo. The protocol for marine litter monitoring on beaches is filling up on the beach immediately after collecting the litter. It consists of basic categories such as plastic, rubber, textile, metal, paper, glass/ceramic, and wood. Within each individual category, there are also examples of waste that, according to the European Commission, are the most common on the beaches.

As a challenge for this competition, Association Sunce resented the problem of a huge waste of time and resources when entering each item individually into the tables. Because of that, there were a limited number of users. In addition, environmental clean-up campaigns and underwater clean-up diving campaigns have been carried out for many years along our coast, and there is no visibility of data on the collected quantities and types of litter. Monitoring the type, amount, and location, where it accumulates, can indicate the source from which the waste reaches the sea, which is important when establishing functional management systems for coastal areas.

Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries presented the protocol for monitoring marine litter on the seabed, which is used during diving ecological actions. Their challenge aimed to create a web application for data collection by underwater cleanup diving actions.

Due to the similar subject matter, the final result and the same target groups of users, prior to the start of the competition, both challenges were combined into one. Students from the University’s Department of Marine Studies and a student from Fakultet Elektrotehnike Strojarstva Brodogradnje – FESB also joined and team.

At the end of the 48 hours competition, the fully functional application CroSeaCleanApp (https://crocleanapp.com) was developed andwon 3rd place. The application allows all civil society organizations to monitor the amount and composting of collected litter. It enables the scientific community to process and collect data, and based on the results, make recommendations for the decision-makers. Decision-makers may, based on the information gathered in the application, adopt measures to reduce the amount of marine litter. The application is also aimed at all interested volunteers, who are already conducting clean-up actions. Using CroSeaCleanApp their efforts to remove marine litter from beaches and the sea will gain additional value.

Association for Nature, Environment and Sustainable Development Sunce intend to use this application in future clean-up actions, and more intensively in the spring of 2022, when in cooperation with the Biotherm Company it organizes an environmental action called the Cleaning Sailing race. The symbolic name refers to the race against time that is necessary to eliminate accumulated litter from marine ecosystems, while special attention will be given to popular beaches among mariners. In this way, in addition to the problem of marine litter, there will be raised questions and concerns about other problems in the environment that are present in areas with developed mass nautical tourism, such as anchoring in Posidonia oceanica seagrass, waste disposal from boats, water waste and several other problems.

Using the CroSeaCleanApp when organizing clean-up actions, all users will create databases with the amount and composition of marine litter collected on the beaches or in the sea, which was missing until now. All interested citizens will be able to participate in the development of future waste management strategies by conducting marine litter monitoring through CroSeaCleanApp. Therefore, any cleanup efforts, no matter how tiny, would have an influence well beyond the simple removal of litter.

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