Tagging Trash

Tagging Trash in the Toronto Harbour

Tracking GPS-tagged bottles to discover the unknown pathways of litter in and around our harbour.

What is the Tagging Trash project?

Floating litter… where does it go? How does it end up on our local beaches, slips and docks? Why does it accumulate in certain areas and not others? As part of our Fighting Floatables Initiative, the Tagging Trash Project aimed to answer these questions. 

In 2021, we used GPS-tagged “Blender Bottle” water bottles to represent floating litter in our harbour and followed their travels to reveal movement patterns and potential accumulation zones for floating litter. This was done with the goal to better understand local sources of litter and help inform future placement of trash capture devices to divert litter from Lake Ontario.

Where did the bottles travel?

The map below displays the travel patterns from each bottle deployment.


Read our blog to learn about our results.

Written by Cassandra Sherlock and Patricia Semcesen


Didn’t this create more litter on the waterfront? 

The aim of this project was to better understand how litter travels within the waterfront, help target litter hotspots, and work to create better waste management infrastructure through the installation of trash trap devices in the Toronto Harbour.

To prevent creating more litter, each bottle had its very own GPS tracker, allowing us to know exactly where they went and then retrieve them once our research was complete.

How did you track each bottle?

Each bottle contained a Globalstar IoT Satellite Tracker configured to report GPS coordinates back to our team on an hourly basis.

What should I do if I find a bottle?

There is a small chance of spotting a bottle we were unable to retrieve. If spotted, send a photo and approximate location to uofttrashteam@gmail.com.

What are you using the data for?

Location data helped our team investigate the potential pathways and sources of floating litter in Lake Ontario and develop a hydrodynamic model to predict and better understand the transport of plastics within, as well and out of, the Toronto Harbour.

How can I help reduce plastic litter in my environment?

The best place to start is with our ‘Solutions Hierarchy’, a ranking of actions and solutions steps to keep plastic and other litter out of our environment and landfill. Check out our Solutions Hierarchy video which walks you through each level. We also have some great waste reduction tips which you can share with family, friends and on social media.

This project was run in in collaboration with:

Supported by:

Environment and Climate Change Canada & The National Geographic Society