Plastic Spotter

Volunteers from the citizen science project Plastic Spotter study floating litter in the canals of Leiden, the Netherlands. With the gained knowledge and by tracing back the source, we can improve cleanup efforts and ultimately even prevent litter from ending up in the water in the first place. Hereby, we can limit the amount of riverine litter of an inland city like Leiden and its contribution to the plastic soup.

Stage of the project




Starting Up





Why was this project started?

The Citizen Science Lab in Leiden started a call for research questions that only could be answered with the help of the public. One of the ideas from citizens was to study how much litter there was floating in the canals of Leiden and where it was coming from. They teamed up with scientists already working in this field which led to a research proposal that won the call. The project aims to study the floating litter in the canals of Leiden, where it's going, and trace back the source to prevent the litter from ending up in the canals.

The results of the project so far

- The finding of a perch entrapped in a glove during a clean-up led to a publication about the effects of COVID-19 litter on animals and initiated the new citizen science project
- Plastic-free terraces together with We Are Nature (in the lead of the national plastic-free terrace movement) and the organization Sustainable Horeca in Leiden.
- Exhibitions about urban plastic pollution and its effect on animal life in the bridge house on the Marebrug in Leiden, "De Grachtwacht"

These outcomes are resulting in more awareness and also tackling the source.

What are specific, distinctive, strong elements in this project?

The active involvement of volunteers in the project, not only collecting litter and data but also involvement in the analysis of the data, the writing of scientific articles, and reporting it back to the community of volunteers and stakeholders.
Also building a community of people who want to be more involved in all the activities.

Which specific lessons, do's and don'ts would you like to share? What would be suggestions for others when preparing or implementing the project in their own city?

- Take into account the agenda of citizens when trying to involve them in your project. So organize meet-ups during the evening.
- FInd good contacts at the municipality, could also be an aldermen or city council members

Have others adopted, or shown interest in adopting, your idea in their own area?

Definitely, many people want to start their own clean-up initiative, in their own city or when they are already cleaning up, they also want to collect data and/or share it through social media.

Can you tell us how valuable this project was for you?

You can rank your answers on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest).

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1. How valuable was this information for you?
Not so much
A lot
2. Will you use this information in your own practice?
No I won't
Yes for sure
3. Could this project be shared to - and implemented in - your own city?
No I won't
Yes I think so


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