3 years later, time to take stock for Riverine Input in the Mediterranean


After 3 years spent studying 4 French sites, it's time to take stock of the Riverine Input project in the Mediterranean.

Riverine Input, what was it?

The Riverine Input project aimed to reduce ocean pollution by studying litter deposits from inland waterways and offering local solutions. The objective was twofold:

    - Improve our knowledge of waste carried to the ocean by waterways in order to reduce marine pollution at its source.

    - Implement the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, and more specifically, the surveillance program by linking upstream and downstream.

Initiated in 2014 on the Adour river, the project was later extended to the Var river drainage basin, in the Alpes-Maritime region, from December 2016 to November 2019.

What to remember from this project

During our 3 years of work in the Mediterranean, 34722 macro wastes were collected over a 65 789m² surface, representing a total weight of 475 kilograms. Among this waste, 77% was plastic and 39% was too fragmented to be identified. Based on 61% of identified waste, a Top 10 ranking has been established. Number 1, as 41% of all waste, was cigarette butts, followed by plastic bags, plastic tarps and plastic food wraps (each representing 10%).

Project conclusions

Riverine Input’s protocol allowed for precise identification of waste quantity and typology on all study sites. Since 2014, several methods had been tested to find the most accurate means of studying river waste, including the collection and characterization of waste washed up along riverbanks,  manually counting pieces of floating waste visible from bridges, catching floating waste using a series of nets and floating dams, and geolocating waste along riverbanks by boat observation. After several trials, the method proven to be most effective was quantifying and geolocating waste washed-up on riverbanks so that we could tracing the origins of the pollution.  From this discovery, the next phase of the project was born: Plastic Origins. 

Next phase, Plastic Origins

Over the next 3 years, Plastic Origins will implement this new method of geolocating waste along riverbanks, floating at the water's surface or found on the river bed by recording our findings with a specially designed mobile application currently being developed with support by Microsoft, Heuritech, Data 4 Good and many volunteer experts. 

In the first phase, participants will use the app to manually record waste observed over a stretch of river 1-5km in length. In the second phase, the goal is to replace manual input with artifical intelligence software which will automatically detect waste pollution through video image analysis. A website is currently being developed to visualize collected data in real time.

During beta testing, Surfrider was able to successfully use the mobile application to map river pollution of Adour, Var, Aa, Liane and Slack rivers and classify them according to the severity of pollution. We now aim to expand to new waterways.