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Plastics and Satellites: How One Company is Set to Help Governments Act

Ask anyone on the street today about environmental challenges and plastic is sure to feature on high their list. They will have noticed the publicity and campaigns mounted by news providers and other organisations in an attempt to highlight what is a global problem, and could spell catastrophe for our maritime environment if changes are not made soon.

The amount of plastics in our oceans has reached epic proportions with a truckload of waste a minute entering our maritime environment. A new report from the UN was released just a couple of weeks ago. ‘Single Use Plastics: A Roadmap for Sustainability’ noted the threat to wildlife that plastic presents – and it is shocking. The report explained that: “High concentrations of plastic materials, particularly plastic bags, have been found blocking the breathing passages and stomachs of hundreds of different species. Plastic bags in the ocean resemble jellyfish and are often ingested by turtles and dolphins who mistake them for food.”

The report also highlighted that evidence shows that the toxic chemicals used during the manufacturing process are making it into the animals’ tissues and eventually ending up in the human food chain.

In the last decade, we have produced more plastic than in the entire 20th century and plastic constitutes approximately 90% of all waste floating on the ocean surface.

By 2050, there could be more plastic in the world’s waters than fish, measured by weight.

We need to act. Now.

Governments, and other organisations invested in the conservation of our maritime environment, must be able to effectively track these harmful plastics that are circulating in our oceans, seas, rivers and streams.

In a 2016 report by the World Economic Forum, ‘The New Plastics Economy: rethinking the future of plastics’, one of the conclusions drawn was that that we must: “Develop insights and build an economic and scientific evidence base. Many of the core aspects of plastics material flows and their economics are still poorly understood.”

The Report recommended that initial studies should:

• “Quantify the socio-economic impact of ocean plastics. Establish measurement tools and a clear fact base.”

• “Develop a socio-economic value impact model for ocean plastics. This would enable both the private and public sectors to factor these costs into their decision making.”

At the moment, the methods available to track these threats are not as effective as they need to be. They are also cost-prohibitive. These include shipborne and airborne monitoring techniques. In 2018, reported that the Pacific garbage patch was twice the size as originally thought - but it took three years to measure. Can we really afford to wait this long to quantify this problem?

Satellite Vu is offering a solution that will enable governments and other organisations to effectively locate, track and quantify the plastic in the maritime environment. We are an Earth Observation company and we have developed satellite technology that rapidly decreases the time in which it takes to measure the plastics problem - from years to weeks.

Measurement of plastics in marine environments will facilitate the creation of maps that show global plastic mass and that can also pinpoint where ecosystems are about to collapse due to the effects of plastic pollution. Mapping enables users to determine the size and origins of the problem and this knowledge can then be used for clean-up operations and to deter offenders. This kind of positive action has been proven to lead to policy changes, to formulation of new regulations and changes in human behaviour much akin to the CO2 regulations that led to carbon reduction targets and economic incentives such as carbon taxes.

Satellite Vu’s unique data processing is essential for the provision of daily measurements of floating litter, providing a constant stream of real-time, highly detailed, accurate and actionable data that speeds up decision-making and the delivery of solutions.

Our groundbreaking technology has recently been recognised by the European Space Agency. At the end of May, Satellite Vu took first prize in the Ocean x Space competition, which invited small companies to submit ideas for innovative space-enabled applications in the maritime sector. Amongst other criteria, the judges were looking for clarity of value proposition and the problem to be tackled, the use of space assets, technical feasibility and the maturity of the idea.

The competition, once more, underlined the fact that Satellite Vu is bringing a critical, practical and affordable service to market.

By effectively monitoring the plastics in our oceans, we can take action- and we must, in order to prevent catastrophe befalling our precious oceans and marine life.

Find out more about Satellite Vu at

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