Artificial Intelligence (AI) Project

Project Purpose

Plastic Free Seas is partnering with Clearbot to help them build the world’s first fully open source AI (artificial intelligence) model and dataset for trash detection

This citizen science project enables participants to make a direct contribution to research while volunteering their time.

The more data there is on marine pollution, the easier it is to help solve the problem.

Your volunteer efforts are recorded. If you need proof of participation for school or an organisation, please contact us here.


Project Goal

We hope to receive 2,000-3,000 different pictures of the commonly found waste on the beach (bottles, straws, bags, cans, caps, etc).

In order to ‘teach’ a digital programme to identify various waste items found on beaches, the specific items must be identified and labelled by people. Many pictures of each item are needed in order to ensure that the AI will work to a high level of accuracy.

The technology can be used to identify floating rubbish, or rubbish washed up on the beach more efficiently than humans can through manual data collection.


Project Guidelines – What You Need to Do

This volunteering activity is ideal for everyone – individuals, families and groups. All you need is a phone or camera, the ability to upload pictures via wifi, and a computer or tablet (for labelling pictures).

There are two parts to this project:

A) Take Pictures & Upload Them

1) Take pictures of rubbish on the beach. Each picture should have between 1 and 5 items in it.

  • Ideally, the item should be fully visible (not cut off).  It’s ok if there is some slight overlap or items or dirt on them, but the goal is full visibility. Note that each item in a picture will be identified/ labelled separately.
  • The picture must be clearly in focus.
  • Take the picture from directly above – not at an angle.
  • Try not to move/ arrange the rubbish too much so the AI can learn to identify rubbish as it appears when it is washed in.
  • After taking the picture, pick up and dispose of the rubbish. Find out more about organising a beach cleanup and disposing of rubbish here.)

You can find examples of Good and Bad photos below.

NOTE: You may take pictures of rubbish on land, as well floating in the water. Please follow the above guidelines.

2) You can upload the pictures straight from your phone or computer here. We recommend you do this with stable wifi.

You should be able to upload up to 50 pictures at one time but if there is a problem, try fewer pictures.

How to upload from your mobile
a) Fill in your email and click ‘Set Email’
b) Tap the box that says ‘Upload Files Here’
c) Select your images
d) You will see the file names of your images listed on the upload page. When they are uploaded it will say ‘Success’

How to upload from your computer
a) Fill in your email and click ‘Set Email’
b) Drag the pictures into the ‘Upload Files Here’ box
c) You will see the file names of your images listed on the upload page. When they are uploaded it will say ‘Success’

B) Identifying Items in Uploaded Pictures

1) You can identify previously uploaded pictures here.

2) Fill in your email and click ‘Set Mail’

3) Click the button ‘Get images to start labelling’

4) Choose an item of rubbish on the picture that you wish to identify

  • To ‘select’ an item on the picture you wish to identify, move the cursor to outside the area of the item, click the left mouse button and drag to ‘box’ the item. Include all of the item in your ‘box’ and try not to include too much extra unnecessary space in the background. It’s ok if you get a bit of another item in the ‘box’ if necessary to ‘box’ all of the item you are labelling.

5) When you have ‘boxed’ the item, release the left click button and a drop-down option will appear

  • Click on the arrow next to ‘Please select one’ to open the drop-down list and find the trash item that you have identified in the picture. You can also type the item name in the ‘Search to filter options’ box, then click ‘Please select one’ to show the filtered options.
  • Select the option from the drop-down list by clicking on it.
  • Click ‘Submit’ to ‘add’ the labelled item.
  • The item will be added to the menu on the top right.
  • If you are unsure what an item is, or cannot find it in the list, you can label it as ‘Other’ in the drop-down list

6) Repeat step 4) for all of the items in the picture

  • When you are finished labelling all of the items in the picture, click ‘Submit’ on the right-hand side of the page and a new picture will appear

7) When you are finished, close the tab on the window


Examples of GOOD photos 

Examples of BAD photos 

We hope you will participate in this valuable citizen science
project. If you have any questions, please feel free to Contact Us.

What is Artificial Intelligence?


Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in computers that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. 

With your help, this technology will be able to be strategically utilised to speed up data collection, accuracy and therefore help to create solutions to the problem of plastic marine pollution.

CAS (Creativity, Activity & Service) opportunities for students

Contact us if you would like to use this citizen science volunteer activity towards your CAS.

If you are a HandsonHK volunteer, you can sign
up for this on their volunteer calendar

Let us know so we can track your work. If you are not familiar with HandsonHK, check them out!

Did You Know?

One of the most widely used environmental apps combing AI technology with Citizen Science is iNaturalist which is used globally to identify plants and animals. It has had more than 55 million observations recorded!

Did You Know?

AI is seen by some as more of a threat, competing for jobs and intruding on people’s private lives, than a helpful tool and ally for the future development of human life, culture and environmental preservation.

Did You Know?

Clearbot’s boat can collect 1 tonne of floating rubbish per day