A scientific project that measures the level of plastic pollution in the ocean.
Ocean Trash Programme
Multi One Attitude Foundation has launched a feasibility study in partnership with two laboratories from the EPFL and Oceaneye, a Geneva-based association for the prevention of plastic pollution in the ocean. The long-term goal is to analyse ocean pollution through its plastic content using specially developed tools and to establish an international database with the results. The ocean-going MOD70 trimarans will support the project.
“Waste patches” or “trash vortex”, islands of rubbish that accumulate in ocean eddies, are gaining ground around the globe, but despite the magnitude of the issue the problem remains understudied with government departments focusing efforts on the more visible coastal areas and leaving offshore pollution studies outside territorial waters to others, mainly NGOs.
The location of these offshore pollution zones that are invisible from space and lie outside traditional commercial routes makes studying them logistically challenging and the current micro- and macro-waste measurement tools compound the issue: they are cumbersome, restrictive and rarely automated. Instead of mounting the tools on pre-existing research vessels, commercial ships or race boats, researchers are forced to use customised craft to measure the rate of pollution.
To the best of our knowledge, there is no pre-existing communal offshore surface-waste database, a fact that complicates the analysis and assessment process and the management of new research operations.
For these reasons, the Multi One Attitude Foundation, EPFL and Oceaneye are working together in three main areas to advance the study of this pollution:
Developing simple, automated measurement tools. A feasibility study is currently underway in two EPFL laboratories for the development of a plastic particle counting system. In parallel, the researcher Konstantin Startchev, is developing a camera system that will detect macro-waste and could be used as part of this project. Refining these measurement tools will make it possible to use existing vessels to collect data.
Maximising the use of the multihulls competing in the trans-oceanic Multi One Design championship.
Proposing an open access database where the data from the newly developed tools would be published and where results from all research institutes could be collected.
Feasibility study objectives
To confirm the relevance and technical feasibility of such a project the study aims to:
Ensure the relevance of the “Ocean Trash Programme” in relation to current knowledge and scientific and technological advances in this field.
Study the technical feasibility of a plastic micro-particle detector.
Prepare a document to identify the development opportunities of a large-scale project supported by investors and industry partners.
EPFL at a glance
EPFL, an unusual school
EPFL is one of the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology. With the status of a national school since 1969, the young engineering school has grown in many dimensions, to the extent of becoming one of the most famous European institutions of science and technology. Like its sister institution in Zurich, ETHZ, it has three core missions: training, research and technology transfer.
EPFL is located in Lausanne in Switzerland, on the shores of the largest lake in Europe, Lake Geneva and at the foot of the Alps and Mont-Blanc. Its main campus brings together over 11,000 persons, students, researchers and staff in the same magical place. Because of its dynamism and rich student community, EPFL has been able to create a special spirit imbued with curiosity and simplicity. Daily interactions amongst students, researchers and entrepreneurs on campus give rise to new scientific, technological and architectural projects.
Ever since its construction in the seventies on the site of Dorigny, EPFL has cultivated its interest in sustainable development through numerous projects that, over time, have contributed to green their campus. From the thermopump heating system to exemplary building to public bike-sharing, it is thanks to the combination of many elements that EPFL is considered today the greenest campus in the world (1st ISCN Sustainable Campus Award 2009).
Representative: Professor Jean-Philippe Thiran
Representative: Doctor Mohamed Farhat
Representative: Pascal Hagmann