New technology identifies sources of ocean plastic

Worldwide, eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year, despite greater awareness of recycling and the use of disposable plastic. A Norwegian app will soon be able to identify where the plastic originated from.

“Actions to clean up plastic don’t do much good if you don’t deal with the sources of the plastic at the same time,” says PhD candidate Christina Hellevik.

Hellevik is one of the researchers at Norway’s Technical University in Ålesund who is working to create a model that will show where plastic collects and determine where in the region it comes from. The researchers are collaborating with the Ålesund region’s Port Authority, Ålesund municipality and Møre og Romsdal county.

“One of the things we’re developing is an app that recognizes plastic from an image,” says Hellevik. The plastic object is photographed and then registered, along with its location, in the app.

The researchers are in the process of developing the database for the app, which will become widely available starting in the spring of 2022.

The goal is for the app to help predict which areas are magnets for plastic pollution and where it comes from, and to facilitate better grounds for decision-making for the municipality and the port authority. This can generate more targeted measures for the clean-up and collection of waste.

Image credit: Susan White/USFWS via flickr/creative commons

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