For a better understanding of the amount of discharged plastic, a study conducted by a scientific working group at UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), concluded that every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans. What is more concerning is that, according to the study, the cumulative input for 2025 would be nearly 20 times the 8 million metric tons estimation.
However, it was not until very recently that people began to understand the scale of plastic pollution, with images showing its effects on the planet. As more know about this, a better monitoring is essential.
For this reason, Peter Kohler, Plastic Tide's director, came up with an idea to measure the size of plastic effectively. Namely, using drone-mounted cameras, a large number of aerial photos are taken.
These photos will be later used in order to train AI to identify images of plastic waste and know the difference between shells, jellyfish or plastic products.
Many volunteers and scientists are taking part in the project, to help the machine learn how to identify plastic. This technology aims to create an accurate map of the worst-polluted coastlines. It also aims to monitor the seabed and the sea surface.
In the future, Mr. Kohler hopes to create a system which will be able to document the spread of plastics in real time. If this happens, it will not only provide an accurate map of where plastics are, but it could also improve the impact of policies, such as those banning plastic bags.