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Innovation: satellites for tracking plastic pollution in Indonesia

Indonesia, one of the countries most affected by plastic pollution in the water and the oceans, has decided to rely on European expertise in monitoring from space to combat the urgent problem of this curse. The aim is to track flows of plastic materials to optimise waste collection.




With 620,000 tonnes of plastic waste discharged into the sea, Indonesia holds the sad reputation as one of the biggest contributors to marine plastic pollution. Aware of the urgency, the Indonesian government has undertaken to reduce marine plastic debris by 70% from now to 2025. Among the solutions implemented to reach this target, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fishing (KKP) has opted for innovation, provided by the satellite services offered by the French company CLS. A subsidiary of the CNES and the CNP, it is a pioneer in supplying observation and monitoring solutions for terrestrial and maritime activities and localising and collecting environmental data.

Tracking plastic wastes from rivers to the Indian Ocean

70 Argos beacons have been deployed at the mouths of three rivers: the Cisadane in Jakarta, the Bengawan in Solo in central Java and on the Musi in Palembang on the island of Sumatra. They emit positions every hour, ensuring their monitoring from space. The challenges are to study the drift of macro-wastes, understand the mechanisms of accumulation and their impacts on aquatic ecosystems, and prioritise and optimise collection and cleaning in rivers, along the coasts and at sea.


A project placed under the sign of cooperation

Since the beginning of the project in February, analyses performed by Indonesian (Indonesian Institute of Sciences – LIPI) and French (CLS and Institute of Research and Development – IRD) researchers have drawn the first conclusion: 90% of the waste ends on the coast, which is good news since this makes the waste easier to collect. However, it is necessary to study the flows of plastic at sea according to the seasons, to efficiently measure the combined impacts of the current, waves and winds, which explains why the experiment is being carried out over a period of two years. This project is being funded by the Indonesian AFD and the World Bank.


The project also makes use of models of drifts of macro-plastics based on proven oceanic and river mouth models. They complete the field approach using beacons, to study the circulation of plastics in hydrological and oceanic networks.

Eventually, a portal simulating the drift of plastic wastes will be available and allow both forecasting the volumes of waste washed up on the shores and, still more importantly, the identification of the points of accumulation and dispersion in rivers.

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Photo credits: CLS



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