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Plastic waste mapped from space for the first time

Plastic waste mapped from space for the first time

First ever spatial analysis of plastic deposits. Thanks to’artificial intelligence in the process, the priority is save the oceans. Tons of plastic are scattered around the planet Earth. It has been known for a long time. But a mapping from space had never been done.

Sky News reported Monday that they have embarked on some sort of virtual tour of the planet, checking where they are plastic deposits. The initiative was made possible by a team of Global Plastic Watch.

The new tool uses satellite imagery and artificial intelligence and will represent unprecedented mapping in this context. There are no longer just models or estimates. “Identifying waste locations in satellite images is totally new and is something very difficult to do, even on a small scale,” explained scientist Caleb Kruse. The platform is public and free and one of the goals is try to prevent the accumulation of plastic in the oceans.

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A “plastic population” in the oceans

It is estimated that for every minute that passes, the equivalent of a truck full of plastic enters the planet’s waters. About 100,000 marine mammals die each year.

The team led by Caleb Kruse uses theartificial intelligence to search, in the satellite images of the European Space Agency, images that have characteristics of plastic storage sites. Look for heavy vehicle roads and trash areas with shades of gray and brown, for example. “The crazy part is we find places like this everywhere,” Kruse warned.

And the plastic buildup doesn’t even need to be significant to be detected: Global Plastic Watch is able to detect plastic “rows” of at least five meters. The location of the plastic deposits is displayed in near real time on an interactive global map.

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The idea is of do not blame or name certain places or possible perpetrators. The priority of this project is to provide more information to governments on the subject, said official Fabien Laurier. “It is difficult to control what you cannot measure or locate,” UN official Kakuko Nagatani-Yoshida told Sky News.

In Indonesia, the fifth country with the most plastic in the ocean, the tool has already been used by the government for locate illegal or unofficial landfills.