New mapping tool to predict movement of ocean plastic

30th Jun 2017

A new website has launched giving members of the public the chance to see just how far a single piece of plastic can travel if it finds it's way to the ocean.

Plastic Adrift uses oceangraphic modelling to predict the likely path of plastic when dropped in the ocean using the movement of different gyres through the seas.

Oceanographer and climate scientist Erik van Sebille of Utrecht University has used data from a network of drifting buoys which send periodic signals to show their movement through the ocean.

This is then analysed to form a predictive model to map the likely path of objects lighter than water, including plastics.

The map shows large variances from even small changes in location. For example, a bottle drop off of the Cornish coast will usually make it's way down into the Bay of Biscay and North Atlantic.

However a bottle dropped near ORCA's head office in Portsmouth is far more likely to travel up through the English Channel and through to Scandinavian waters further north.

Plastics are a huge threat facing cetaceans, and ORCA are involved in a range of programmes at a national level to help to address this issue.

Our make a small change campaign also encourages people to take small actions including reducing their use of plastic - find out more about taking part here.