Microsoft AI accelerates debris research

New digital solutions to reduce plastic pollution are underway through a new partnership with Microsoft.

Our research team is using Microsoft tools and capabilities to accelerate marine debris data collection and improve our understanding of what, where, how and why plastic pollution ends up on land, along our coasts, and in the ocean.

Rubbish floating in the water

Utilising Microsoft technology will assist with our efforts to reduce debris ending up in our oceans

Microsoft software and AI technologies will help identify and manage plastic pollution to generate targeted waste management strategies and intervention methods. We will be able to count and track plastic debris and conduct quantifiable assessments of the effectiveness of waste management programs.

We will be leveraging Microsoft technology to count plastic debris on land, in aquatic and marine environments and in areas that are unsafe for manual collection and counting. We will also create a new application to significantly improve the current method of data collection using hand-written datasheets.

Using AI to track plastic pollution

Installing cameras under bridges will enable researchers to study rubbish flowing along rivers. Automated image processing will provide key information on the types of rubbish, how much there is, and where it travels. Ultimately, we will be able to identify specific details such as brand labels on a drink bottle or food packaging, to understand the full life cycle of plastics.

This critical information will inform intervention efforts and improve waste management supply chains. Importantly, it will also enable us to measure how effective various policies, practices and activities are in reducing waste leaking to the environment.

Reducing land-to-sea debris

With an estimated 40-60 per cent of rubbish in our oceans moving through stormwater drains, we are also developing camera traps and sensors to prevent our waste from ending up in the marine environment.

We will be able to collect information in near-real time, which will inform us where to implement intervention points to stop rubbish leaking into our oceans, and provide data on a rolling basis. This could be particularly helpful for evaluating the effectiveness of waste management strategies such as container deposit schemes and industry incentives to reduce plastic pollution.

Utilising Microsoft technology will build on our award-winning marine debris research to deliver wide-reaching and real impacts to support national, regional and global efforts to tackle marine debris.