Environment: Satellite data used to detect marine plastic

EUREK ALERT | A new method of detecting patches of floating macroplastics - larger than 5 millimetres - in marine environments is presented in Scientific Reports this week. The approach, which uses data from the European Space Agency Sentinel-2 satellites, is able to distinguish plastics from other materials with 86% accuracy.

Lauren Biermann and colleagues identified patches of floating debris from Sentinel-2 data based on their spectral signatures - the wavelengths of visible and infrared light they absorbed and reflected. The authors then trained a machine-learning algorithm to classify the individual materials that made up these patches according to the specific spectral signatures of different plastic and natural materials.


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