To reduce marine litter, we have to think beyond beach clean-ups and act directly at the source of the problem. Plastic Origins, a Surfrider Europe program, invites volunteers on a river quest to monitor inland plastic pollution and build local solutions to prevent it from reaching the Ocean.
80% of marine litter comes from inland origins
To combat this, we’ve developed Plastic Origins, a program that combines science and sport to monitor plastic pollution in rivers. Using Microsoft’s geolocation software, anyone can monitor Europe’s river pollution to help build a comprehensive map which identifies high pollution areas and possible causes. With this data, we raise awareness among local authorities to influence change that stops plastic pollution at its source.
“If you are not able to understand the cause of a problem, it is impossible to solve it – Naoto Kan ”
Plastic origins was born from a passion
Plastic Origins was initiated with the values of Surfrider Europe at its core: a passion for the marine environment and a desire to protect it. For three decades, Surfrider Europe has brought together citizens, scientists, associations and businesses who are committed to protect the places they love. Plastic Origins is the result of this network harnessing the power of passion and innovation.
How does it work ?
First option: Record the riverbank using the application. The artificial intelligence algorithm analyzes the video and automatically detects visible waste, which it quantifies, geolocates and classifies according to type (bottle, fragment, etc.).
Second option: Manually report and classify the waste observed during your river descent. This option is preferable when there is little waste on the shoreline.
The data collected is available on the Plastic Origins website and accessible to all, for a total transparency. Ultimately, the goal of this project is to create a map showing the pollution levels of all European rivers.
Participatory science at the heart of the project
In parallel to this process, the Trashroulette platform feeds artificial intelligence thanks to the contribution of Internet users who upload photos of waste in nature and identify them manually on these images. Thus, over time and thanks to all the people involved in the project, the application will become more and more reliable and efficient.
The codes and algorithms used for the project are shared in open source on the GitHub page of Surfrider Foundation Europe, so everyone can access them. The association believes that every citizen should be able to use it in order to improve or duplicate it, in a common effort to preserve the ocean at the global level.
Plastic Origins is made possible by the help of volunteers from Surfrider Europe and Microsoft ecosystems including Heuritech, Metsys and the AI school, who have been been essential in developing the mobile application.
To take part in this adventure:
. Download the Plastic Origins application and familiarize yourself with its features.
. Contact the team by sending an email to in order to benefit from a short training on how to use the application!
. Discover the data already collected on the Plastic Origins website.