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AI to clean New Zealand’s coastlines

Artificial intelligence (AI) will be used in a new initiative that will help establish a New Zealand-first national litter database, according to a recent report.

During Microsoft’s inaugural AI event, called Future Now, real-life applications of how AI will be able to help shape New Zealand were brought to life.

This demonstrated that AI is an important driver of new solutions to address some of the biggest societal challenges.

In an exciting new initiative with Sustainable Coastlines, the company aims to make citizen scientists out of the people by arming them with the right data and insights to help keep the country clean, green and beautiful.

The tool is the first of its kind in New Zealand and uses the company’s Cognitive Services, alongside a United Nations Environment Programme methodology in order to help communities around the country capture and categorise what litter is on the beaches.

Working with the Ministry for the Environment, the Department of Conservation and the Department of Statistics New Zealand, the data gathered from the new tool will be used to help establish a New Zealand-first national litter database.

The information will provide valuable insight to communities, right up to government, on the effectiveness of different litter interventions as well as educational approaches.

This will aid the people so they can collectively work together to best change litter behaviours.

The tool is a fantastic example of how AI is being used for good, where it is delivering large-scale, grassroots solutions to the growing litter problem in New Zealand.

Moreover, through AI, the initiative is also being harnessed as a powerful education instrument for schools.

With the company’s data visualisation tool, Power BI, data collected from it will be presented in an engaging and easy to understand format.

This will help schools, community groups and businesses to view and make sense of the data and trends from a local perspective.

Hopefully, this will empower them to undertake their own litter-reduction projects in their communities.

The first official Citizen Science Monitoring Site for this project has been established at Waikanae Beach, Gisborne.

This site will be monitored for litter long-term by the local community group Plastic Bag Free Tairāwhiti, who will gain a strong local understanding of the litter problem while contributing to the national database.

Educators nationwide will be trained, with the help of the Ministry of Education, to deliver a new curriculum-aligned behaviour change programme.

This aims to curb single-plastic consumption and reduce litter. Iwi, local and business groups across the country will also be trained on how to use the AI tool in their unique communities.

All data findings will be publicly available through a purpose-built litter database and education hub.


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