UNEP partners with Google to counter plastics pollution / Project based on machine learning for Asian rivers
The new machine learning model provides a detailed view of plastics pollution in the Mekong river (Photo: UNEP)
To fight ever-increasing marine litter, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP, Nairobi / Kenya; and Google have come together to get a more accurate view of plastics pollution in the Mekong river in Asia. With Google’s support, UNEP plans to create a machine learning model that will provide a detailed look into the plastics pollution problem, including the points where the plastics waste leaks into the stream, at the Mekong river and beyond.

According to UNEP, the Mekong and the Ganges are two of the eight Asian rivers that contribute 95% of plastics discharge into the world’s oceans every year. Covering a distance of 5,000 km, the Mekong flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Working in the Mekong region from 2019-2020, UNEP’s “CounterMEASURE” project, to make rivers plastics-free through science, has developed techniques to assess plastics leakage using geospatial data and images of plastics waste supplied by researchers and volunteers, with additional support from the Geoinformatics Center (GIC) at the Asian Institute of Technology (Khlong Luang, Pathum Thani / Thailand; The new collaboration will also contribute to the “Global Partnership on Marine Litter”, which is a multi-stakeholder partnership under UNEP that brings together all actors working to prevent marine litter and microplastics.

For UNEP and GIC’s project at Mekong, community science will strengthen the creation of Google’s algorithm through community-sourced, annotated images. This machine-learning model will contribute to the development of a plastics leakage hotspot map, according to UNEP. The aim is to make the map available to local and national governments to help them target policies and resources better.

Emmanuel Sauquet, a VP at Google, said, “We are excited to support UNEP in creating this open-source machine-learning model that will help detect plastics pollution in streets and riverbanks. UNEP’s influence with local governments will allow effective action to be taken to stop plastics leakage, and scale this solution globally.”
29.04.2021 [247528-0]
Published on 29.04.2021

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