Empowering Environmental Change: The TrashBlitz App built with FlutterFlow

a month ago   •   4 min read

By Amman Waseem
Photo Credits: 5Gyres


Introduction:

FlutterFlow applications have now become powerful tools for social and environmental activism. TrashBlitz, a community science program, is dedicated to tracking and reducing plastic pollution. 

Developed using FlutterFlow, the research platform started by 5 Gyres has made significant strides in data collection, community engagement, and policy influence by executing clean-ups & data collection missions in the field. 

The data collected from the application has led to impact including the creation of the Austin Reuse Coalition, incentivizing LA City in adopting 14 plastics-related ordinances impacting 4 million people and 32,000 restaurants, and even being cited as evidence in the NY State Attorney's lawsuit against PepsiCO. The development of the app involved volunteer designers from Accenture, 5 Gyres stakeholders, & a development agency. 

The Genesis of TrashBlitz, a 5 Gyres Initiative:

The 5 Gyres Institute has a global mission to stop the threat of plastic pollution. TrashBlitz initiatives function as a catalyst for increasing environmental stewardship, coalition building, and policy change with the ultimate goal of reducing disposable plastics. The TrashBlitz research platform is a global, community science-based tool that engages stakeholders in identifying specific plastic types and brands of waste. 


The Development Journey:

Initially the project started as only a web application for plastics data organization. However, the TrashBlitz team quickly realized the need for a mobile platform to enable on-the-go data collection in offline mode for remote wilderness environments and image capture of pollutants. This led to the transition to a mobile app, with FlutterFlow playing a pivotal role in this evolution.

The transition from a web app to a mobile app prompted Praful Mathur, TrashBlitz project lead, to explore FlutterFlow’s development ecosystem. Praful cites he was impressed by the fast development cycles that contributed to new mobile app features needed by their team. The platform's ability to integrate with Supabase, swap authentication providers, and handle API-based authentication streamlined their team’s needs. Since native Flutter updates were difficult to manage, Praful and the team switched from native Flutter development to FlutterFlow while working with volunteers from Accenture. Volunteer designers from Accenture first built mockups in Figma and then efficiently implemented in FlutterFlow, allowing for rapid iteration and a focus on the app's look and feel.

Feature Highlights of the TrashBlitz App:

  • Data Capture & Inventory: Users can easily record and submit data on plastic pollution, contributing to a global database for analysis and policy advocacy.
  • Event Participation Tracking: The app allows users to identify and join TrashBlitz events, fostering community engagement and collective action.
  • Historical Data Review: Users can access and review data from past events they have participated in, enabling them to track their contributions over time.
  • Community Fund Access: Users can learn about and apply for the TrashBlitz Community Fund, which supports local initiatives aimed at reducing plastic pollution.
  • Integrations for Enhanced Functionality: Offline mode with PowerSync enables the app to function offline, allowing data collection in areas with limited internet connectivity. Meanwhile, Supabase powers the app with a robust and scalable backend for efficient data storage and management.

Impact:

Los Angeles, CA:

The results from the pilot TrashBlitz inspired the Reusable LA coalition to pivot their focus on a comprehensive single-use plastic phase-out in Los Angeles. The coalition that organized as a direct result of TrashBlitz LA successfully 

  • guided LA County to adopt a plastics ordinance for unincorporated areas, reaching 1.1 million people
  • supported LA City in adopting 14 plastics-related ordinances, impacting 4 million people and 32,000 restaurants

Photo Credits: 5Gyres

Austin, TX:

After partnering with local groups in Austin, TX to produce a TrashBlitz report, the team identified that single-use plastic food-ware was a major contributor to Austin’s waste footprint. This resulted in the formalization of the Austin Reuse Coalition, which supports restaurants in reducing their plastic footprint and transitioning to reusables.

PhotoCredits: 5Gyres

Corporate Plastic Audits:

Over the last 6 years, 5 Gyres has partnered with Break Free From Plastic on their Global Brand Audits, and now use the TrashBlitz research platform to help identify the top corporate polluters globally. This community science data puts pressure on big corporations, and brands like Coca-Cola who have expressed a commitment to reducing their plastic footprint and replacing virgin plastic with post-consumer (recycled) material. Plastic-Free Parks TrashBlitz was cited as evidence in the NY State Attorney's lawsuit against PepsiCO in 2023. 

PhotoCredits: 5Gyres

The Future of TrashBlitz:

In 2023 volunteers collected over 24,000 pieces of trash around the country and analyzed them in the TrashBlitz app to capture the item, material, brand, and location with precise lat/long coordinates. In 2024, there have already been over 10,000 pieces of trash collected in a recent Belize campaign and TrashBlitz is poised for further growth. In March of 2024, 5 Gyres will launch its second Community Fund to provide $10,000 to project partners and support their waste audit work. The team is now building out a CRM-style admin panel with Accenture and the project is due to receive more resources & funding to continue development. The ongoing collaboration with Accenture and the potential open-sourcing of the project promise to enhance the app's capabilities and reach.


Learn more about TrashBlitz below:

TrashBlitz in the News:
The Guardian, CNN Agalita, CNN Plastic Polution

Get Involved with 5Gyres here.

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