Tagging Trash

Tagging Trash in the Toronto Harbour

Follow the travels of our GPS-tagged bottles and 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 aims to answer these questions. 

We are using GPS-tagged “Blender Bottle” water bottles to represent floating litter in our harbour, and will follow their travels to reveal movement patterns and potential accumulation zones for floating litter. This will allow us to better understand local sources of litter and help inform future placement of trash capture devices (like Seabins) to divert litter from Lake Ontario.

What does the bottle look like?

How can we follow along?

Follow along on the journey of each bottle! The map below is updated every few days and shows where they travel in real-time!

Preliminary Results Webinar


Won’t this create more litter on the waterfront? 

The aim of this project is to better understand how litter travels within the waterfront and to help target litter hotspots. This will work to create better waste management infrastructure through the installation of trash capture devices in the Toronto Harbour, such as the Seabins.

To prevent creating more litter, each bottle has its very own GPS tracker! This allows us to know exactly where they go. We will also retrieve all bottles once we’ve finished charting their journey across the harbour.

How do you plan to track each bottle?

Each bottle contains 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?

Please leave bottles where you find them so that the location data we analyze is as accurate as possible. BUT feel free to snap a pic and tag us online (@UofTTrashTeam #TaggingTrash)!

What are you using the data for?

Location data will help our team investigate the potential pathways and sources of floating litter in Lake Ontario. This data will then be used to help develop a hydrodynamic model to predict and better understand the transport of plastics within, as well and out of, the Toronto Harbour. Once we can better understand where plastics end up in the harbour, we can pinpoint the best locations to place a trash capture device, like a Seabin, to remove floating plastic and make for a cleaner 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 is in collaboration with:

Supported by:

Environment and Climate Change Canada & The National Geographic Society