Innovative Technologies and Citizen Science to Combat Plastic Waste in the Mekong and Beyond

WoodrowWilsonCenter– Jul 29, 2021

Millions of tons of plastic flows into the ocean through rivers each year, and astonishingly almost 95% of that plastic discharge is coming from only 10 rivers, 8 of which are in Asia. Among those 8 are the Yangtze, Mekong, and the Ganges rivers—the lifeblood for hundreds of millions of people in China, Southeast Asia, and India. Gaps in scientific knowledge on where and how plastic litter is leaking into these and other rivers hinders action to tackle the problem.

At this Wilson Center webinar, panelists working in the UNEP’s CounterMEASURE project will talk about how their work in the Mekong River Basin deploying citizen science and frontier technologies like GIS, machine learning and drones, can help identify sources and pathways of plastic pollution in river systems in Asia. Their work, done in partnership with universities, NGOs, businesses, and other international organizations, is generating data to make the most comprehensive map of plastic waste to inform policy decisions and actions to reduce plastic waste in rivers.

Kakuko Nagatani-Yoshida (UNEP) will kick off this panel with a brief introduction to the UNEP CounterMEASURE Project’s innovative work to track hotspots of plastic waste in the Mekong, Ganges, and most recently, in the Mississippi River. Dr. Panate Manomaivibool (Mae Fah Luang University) will describe his university’s initiative to partner with citizen scientists to audit and map plastic waste in Thailand. Dr. Emilie Strady (IRD) will present the microplastic monitoring network developed in Vietnam for aquatic environments as part of the COMPOSE project and a manga-style animation clip dedicated to youth to raise their awareness on plastic pollution. work in Vietnam educating students and elevating sustainable development knowledge. Mr. Fujio Kojima (Pirika Association, Japan) will introduce his company’s innovative Albatross, an underwater machine analyzing the flow of microplastics in the Mekong River. Besides talking about her April mini-expedition to engage citizens in auditing plastic debris for the CounterMEASURE Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative, Dr. Jenna Jambeck (University of Georgia) will speak about the critical need for data to understand the leakage problem.

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