Figure 1: Seagull gathering on an illegal landfill (Source: Terry Whittaker / naturepl.com).
Waste is an increasing ecological problem, which does not only threaten the environment and natural ecosystems, but poses an increasing risk to public health. According to statistics, more than half of the world's population has no access to the regular waste collection. In such cases, unregulated and illegal landfills are being created, which contain more than 40% of the world's waste.
In the interest of environmentalists it is of utmost importance to detect illegal landfills. The GPS tracking devices were used to support their research by being attached to gulls. Seagulls like to gather and hunt for food at the waste disposal sites. Monitoring their routes and collection points has helped to uncover one of the largest illegal landfills in Spain.
Most gulls are carnivores which take live food or scavenge opportunistically. More and more seagulls have been spotted in cities and landfills. Unregulated waste landfills are their favourite hunting spot, as there are not many people to scare them and also, trash is lying all around unprotected. ,Seagulls are attracted by the scent of the organic waste. Because of this, researchers in Spain decided to include GPS-outfitted gulls in their research, which will help them detect illegal waste dumps in Europe.
Jim Baird, from Glasgow Caledonian University, said that due to large taxes on land-based dumps, the population is increasingly inclined to dumping waste at illegal landfills. Ironically, tax costs for cleaning illegal landfills are even higher. In the UK alone, illegal landfill costs more than £ 300.000.000 (Environmental Education Education Association, 2014).
Unfortunately, the illegal dumping of waste is extremely difficult to find, since they are often lead by white-collar criminals, which occur in recognized companies and are therefore difficult to suspect. For this reason, ecologist Joan Navarro used solar powered GPS tracking devices and attached them to nineteen seagulls with his team at the French National Center for Scientific Research.
Figure 2: An example of an illegal waste in Spain (Source: https://www.endswasteandbioenergy.com/article/1427805/eu-court-declares-61-spanish-landfill-sites-illegal).
USE OF GPS DEVICES FOR DETECTION OF ILLEGAL WASTE DISPOSALS
The use of GPS as a waste tracking device is nowadays widely known. For this reason, theNevarra's team of ecologists decided to take advantage of this new research method and the results were very satisfactory. GPS-equipped seagulls flew over 100 kilometers long, but most often gathered in a closed landfill near the Spanish city of Huelva. When the authorities visited the site, they found what they originally expected. There were fresh wastes in the area, which were dropped without the permission of the government.
The research process, as described above, is definitely effective and innovative, which was also proudly confirmed by Baird. Because GPS trackers operate on the basis of solar energy, they can work for years without having to be recharged. In addition, these devices transmit information every five minutes and provide authorities with information on new illegal landfills that occasionally occur.
Baird nevertheless advocates the use of GPS trackers. The method is extremely ecological and does not cause negative effects on birds and they also represent secret tracking of illegal waste landfills.
GPS tracking devices are showing more and more use in our everyday life as in economical and ecological progress. Devices such as Trackimo provide us with new ways of obtaining data and research methods.
Get your own Trackimo GPS tracking device here: http://www.svetkom.si/trackimo_en.html