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Plastic Adrift is a free, online, browser-based tool to model the position of plastic near the surface of the ocean over time. 

The pollution of the oceans with plastics is a major challenge for conservationists. Plastics can choke certain animals and be eaten by many marine organisms. Worse, because many plastics can't be broken down, they can build up inside larger, longer-living creatures over time.

Since the late 1970s, ocean scientists have tracked drifting buoys but it wasn't until 1982 the World Climate Research Programme put forward the idea of a standardised global array of drifting buoys. These buoys float with the currents just like plastics except - like Twitter from the sea - they send a short message to scientists every six hours about where they are and the conditions in that location.

Dr Erik van Sebille and colleagues have used this information to develop a statistical model of the surface pathways of our oceans. The Adrift website uses this model and generates an animation of the likely path and destination of floating debris over a ten year period into the future.

This can help environmental scientists and conservationists to understand where existing plastic, and other floating debris is likely to end up over time. The underlying models behind Plastic Adrift have been used to predict the movement of other things, including debris from missing airliner MH-370.

The tool was first developed by Dr van Sebille while at the University of New South Wales, and first used for adrift.org.au. The code was rewritten and the site rebuilt for Plastic Adrift.

Please contact Dr van Sebille if you wish to discuss academic or industrial collaborations or partnerships.


Note: Imperial Innovations and Imperial College London are not responsible for the content of external websites. Users click on external links at their own risk.

Plastic Adrift

Browser-based model to estimate the position of ocean surface plastic over time

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