The Plastic Tide


Help us to reveal and relieve the siege of plastics and litter afflicting our oceans... 



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The Problem



The Plastic Tide is rising...

The Plastic Tide is growing by 8 million metric tonnes a year. If nothing is done, it is estimated that this figure will rise to 80 million metric tonnes a year by 2025.  

This tide does not recede. It consists of all sizes of plastics, with larger pieces taking at least 400 years to break down, into fragments known as microplastics, which could take hundreds of thousands of years to break down completely.  

The Damage

The impact of this synthetic tide is pervasive. Increasingly, studies are showing how our oceans are being swamped quicker than we had thought. From clogging the deepest depths before we have even explored them, to starving the birds that soar above the ocean surface, this is a problem that affects all marine life. But it also has increasing impact on human life too, from toxicity to rising economic costs.

Unseen Menace

The majority of us are unaware of the menace of the growing tide of plastic, with most people only catching a glimpse of the problem when they visit beaches on holiday.  Even then, the popular beaches we visit will be cleaned regularly, so the biggest impacts are still hidden.

In the UK alone, a recent Marine Conservation Society report indicated a 250% increase in plastics washing up on our beaches in the past ten years. But this didn't show where, how extensively or how systematically the plastics were distributed, or how the rate of influx changes over time.

Worryingly, while we can estimate how much plastic is already in, and is entering, our ocean, we can't say for certain where it goes.

This is a major concern for scientists trying understand how plastics impact our ocean and lives.  So far we can only account for 1%  - the plastics on the ocean surface.  


So, how much of the missing 99% ends up on our coasts...?


Our Mission:

To harness cutting edge drone and algorithm technology to create an open source map of the plastic pollution problem, in the UK and beyond. Help us to make our Vision from the Skies a Vision of the Future, in fighting the rising tide of plastics around the world.




The Plastic Tide will harness the power of new drone technology in an innovative and revolutionary way; surveying beaches in a series of beach cleans and using Machine Learning Algorithms to remotely detect plastic build-up, with numerous and multi-disciplinary applications.


Dr. Erik Van Sebille, world expert on marine litter and Science Adviser to the Plastic Tide, says;

“The Plastic Tide will significantly enhance our understanding of the amount of plastic on coastlines, by trialing revolutionary drone-based automatic detection of the litter. This will aid the creation of a global inventory of marine plastic pollution, and help identify hotspots, impacts and fate of our plastic.”


A revolutionary use of Drone Technology and Machine Learning to autonomously measure the rising tide of Plastics polluting our beaches.

The core objectives of the project are: firstly, to produce an Open Source Machine Learning Algorithm capable of detecting up to 90% of beach plastics via pioneering imaging technology. Secondly, to engage in a large-scale, accessible and educational Citizen-Science Project, and thirdly, to explore the relationship and impacts of plastics on communities and individuals.

01. Machine Learning Algorithm

To develop an Algorithm based on cutting edge Machine Learning Technology capable of creating a clear Vision from the Skies of the plastics problem.

02. Citizen Science              

To engage the public in creating scientifically valuable datasets, through (a) Helping to train our algorithm by labeling plastics and (b) joining us on beach cleans.

03. Open Data & Collaboration   

We believe in making our data transparent and available for the public and research communities. Therefore all drone images, algorithms and coding will be open-source, and we are aiming to host plastic drone survey imagery and algorithm results from around the world.

04. Human Impacts      

We will also facilitate an extensive study into the impacts of Plastics and Marine Litter on the health and wellbeing of people - backed and published through leading academic institutions.


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