British Science Week - What is the Buzz about?

This Friday is the launch British Science Week, a nationwide 10 day festival of science, math and technology, in partnership with The Plastic Tide.  From your armchair (or office) you can help us reach our target of 250,000 tags to help locate plastics automatically for global beach cleaning efforts!


Plastic pollution is like an arch-nemesis, a foe of nightmares, for our oceans - anything action it takes to break it down makes it stronger. Wave, wind and sun break the plastics into trillions of smaller and smaller pieces creating a bigger and bigger problem. These ‘microplastics’ last thousands to hundreds of thousands of years and can have serious consequences to marine and human life!


For most of us, the only exposure to this problem is when we visit our increasingly litter-strewn beaches, but we are only seeing a fraction of what is actually there. Studies now estimate up to 10 times the amount of plastic is on our beaches then current models predict. So beach litter monitoring is a huge problem today.


The most direct way to clean the ocean of litter is to remove it anywhere we find on our beaches. Our Science Adviser and Oceanographer, Dr Erik Van Sebille, says ‘Each piece of litter you remove from a beach prevents it breaking down into tens of thousands of pieces of microplastics.'


But what if you can’t make it a beach and want to do something to limit the damage of the plastic already in the ocean? This is where we need YOU! Become a Citizen Scientist, help us smash our ambitious 250,000 tag target for British Science Week to train our computer program to boost cleaning efforts all around the world!


There are so many ways to get involved: 

Or start tagging now:

Find out here:

Tell us how you do and get your friends to join in on Social Media with #BSW18

Find us on:

Don't forget to add British Science Association too!


Your Impact

Each tag will help train a computer (Machine Learning) algorithm to automatically locate, identify, monitor and map plastics on our coastlines. Our prototype is already detecting up to 25% based on just 400,000 tags, to your 250,000 for British Science Week will be a significant boost!

Some examples of successful detection from our prototype - your tags will help us improve our detection rates!

Some examples of successful detection from our prototype - your tags will help us improve our detection rates!

Eventually, with your help, we will bring the accuracy from 25% up to 70-80%, providing a vital free tool. Available to anyone from a citizen with a drone (and license) to national governments to map plastics in unprecedented detail and to contribute to a global scientific understanding of the plight!

What are the benefits?

This will revolutionise our global clean-up by coordinating cleans to maximise their impact and effect by targetting the worst hit places and times. This will help limit the negative impact plastic pollution is having on marine life, seabirds, shipping, fishermen, tourism and many others. It wil also help us monitor litter accumulation to inform campaigns, policies and to help risk assessments.

What might it look like?

Below is a concept map, built using the data we gathered via an app (not the algorithm), of what the result of the algorithm might look like. Each drone survey contributing data to a global HEAT map of marine litter and plastics. In addition to the HEAT map we aim to add change over time, litter types and the ability to download. Have a play and let us know what you think!

Let's get our science on!