Last week the INSPIRE Europe consortium kicked off the start of a new four-year project. 25 partners spread across Europe and one partner from Thailand will join forces to reduce the plastic pollution in European rivers.
Plastic pollution is becoming a major concern. At this moment about 150 million tons of potentially harmful plastic is present in our oceans. Although this number is already hard to fathom, without any measures it is expected to further increase on an annual basis with 10%. Rivers and estuaries play an important role in the transport of plastics from land-to-sea, but also the ecosystems and biodiversity of rivers themselves are impacted by plastic pollution. The health of Europe’s single connected system of ocean, seas, coastal and inland waters is an important challenge for the European Union. This is reflected in the Green Deal targets and Horizon Europe Mission which has the ambition to restore our oceans and waters by 2030.
Within INSPIRE, we aim to bring different technologies and solutions together focusing on the detection, collection and prevention of litter, plastics and macroplastics in rivers and on riverbanks. We will work on six focus areas at which different technologies and actions will be implemented, being: Scheldt, Po, Rhine, Douro, Savinja and Danube rivers.
Our INSPIRE team will eagerly reach out to researchers, politicians, industry and citizens to be involved and participate in the development and implementation of solutions to break the plastic wave for the sake of the environment. Based on lessons learned from the focus areas, INSPIRE technologies and actions will be scaled up and deployed at associated sites, not covered by the consortium.
As partner in INSPIRE, VITO Remote Sensing will determine the plastic flux in rivers and the plastic accumulation along the riverbank. Machine learning techniques will be applied on data collected by cameras under bridges and drones. Such automated monitoring systems are crucial to evaluate mitigation actions like plastic removal and prevention.