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A comprehensive approach

to analyse plastic pollution in the oceans

A scientific, technological, and human approach

The selected beaches are examined using a standardized scientific protocol based on the NOAA's method. The macro-debris are manually collected, categorized, and weighted by the members of the expedition. The meso- and micro-debris are also collected by the researchers, using sieves, and then analyzed by a university laboratory specializing in plastic pollution.  

This scientific mission also provides an opportunity to test new methods of technological exploration, and develop efficient data acquisition systems used to locate zones of plastic pollution. Thus, SenseFly’s "eBee" drone is used for high-definition mapping of the beaches and offshore areas under study. The results of the image analysis is being compared with data issued from manual collection (calibration of the method) in order to establish an initial report on its functionalities, and create, in the long term, a high-quality tool for the detection of macro-debris. It is possible to have a look at the images taken by the drone directly here.














The R4WO is also actively involved in a new citizen science program, Sail4Science(S4S), and more precisely in Plankton Planet project. This project aims to bring more knowledge which is necessary to understand the balance and dynamics of the living oceans. Through its expedition, out of the main seaways, our team is naturally involved in this project that perfectly completes our scientific program. The samples collected offshore during the R4WO allow to make the first inventory of the biodiversity of plankton near and within major ocean gyres which concentrate the plastic particles. The crew is happy to be among the pioneers that tested the brand new miniature plankton sampling tool (XplorGEN) on a sailboat which will allow a citizen and long term water quality measuring of global oceans.

Meanwhile, the teams meet local people (sailors, fishermen, authorities, NGOs, etc.) in order to gather information about the methods in use to deal with the problems posed by plastic on their shores. Support from various local NGOs during the different stops enables the collection of testimonies from various local figures regarding the measures they have taken against this pollution.

The R4WO also contributes to a linguistic project initiated by LexisPlanet and the Eco-citizen House of Bordeaux: My words for the World. The aim of this project is to develop an international lexicon to communicate on sustainable development. During its expedition, the R4WO contributes by gathering the words most frequently used by the populations on this issue. One goal was to present this glossary at the COP21 in Paris.

Support from prestigious  research institutions

The mission's teams benefit from the support of prestigious universities and research centers specializing in the analysis of plastic waste. Duke University (USA) and Oregon State University were responsible for programming and sending the drone, as well as analyzing the data collected using modern image analysis techniques.