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Analysis of innovative solutions

On the topic of marine litter, a team at the Helmholtz Centre Hereon (, headed by research scientist Nikoleta Bellou, has published, in the specialist journal Nature Sustainability, a comprehensive analysis of solutions for the prevention, monitoring and cleaning of plastic waste that has been discharged into the environment. The team comes to the conclusion that there is a need for more funding, more networking between the parties involved, and a greater political will to find solutions.


For the analysis, the team collected and categorised the majority of innovative technologies and methods from all over the world that either prevent the discharge of waste into the seas, monitor the discharges or are aimed at removing the discharges from the seas. 170 planned or already implemented solutions that satisfied the validation criteria were analysed by the team, ranging from crowdfunding projects to research databases. The scientists established among other things that previous developments are based more on comparable technological approaches, while those of the next generation are based increasingly on different approaches and, more and more often, integrate machine learning, robotics, big data analytics and modelling. The respective areas of focus can be categorised according to the affiliation of the players: For example, scientific teams tend to focus on the monitoring aspect, while NGOs are more occupied with topics of prevention. When it comes to cleaning solutions, it is mainly cooperations between various players that are involved. Around 60 percent of the analysed solution proposals relate to the monitoring and were developed in the last three years.


However, say the authors, only very few of the proposed solutions are actually implemented. According to the study, hardly any technical solution actually reaches technical maturity and becomes available on the market. The research also showed that the information is dispersed across different platforms and is often not easily accessible. Against this background, the study looks both at the limitations of the proposed solutions and at the challenges involved in developing new ones. Finally, the team formulates recommendations for scientists and politicians: The authors propose greater international cooperation between research and national environment policy, including the relevant authorities, and recommend a “definition of standards” for evaluating solutions – for example, according to size, efficiency and environmentally compatible footprint. On this basis, new funding programs could be set up to continue working on existing approaches and developing new ones, together with the establishment of a global database.


Original publication: Global assessment of innovative solutions to tackle marine litter



  • (6/10/2021)
  • Photo: @ Brian Yurasits / Unsplash

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