A new study demonstrates the potential for plastic bottles tagged with tracking devices to deepen our understanding of how plastic pollution moves through rivers. Emily Duncan of the University of Exeter, U.K., and colleagues present this research in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on Dec 2, 2020.
Plastic pollution threatens natural ecosystems and human health worldwide. Previous research suggests that rivers transport up to 80 percent of the plastic pollution found in oceans. However, while ocean modeling and tracking technology have revealed detailed insights into how plastic litter moves and accumulates within oceans, river transport of plastic pollution remains poorly understood.
To help address this knowledge gap, Duncan and colleagues developed a new, low-cost, open-source tracking method that uses reclaimed 500 mL plastic bottles to house custom-designed electronics, allowing the bottles to be tracked via GPS cellular networks and satellite technology. These “bottle tags” mimic plastic beverage bottles, in the