October 2021, article in a peer-reviewed journal
Optics Express

Young-Je Park, Shungudzemwoyo P. Garaba and Bruno Sainte-Rose

  • Publication journal: Optics Express
  • Publication type: article in a peer-reviewed journal
  • Publication date: 13 October 2021
  • DOI: /10.1364/OE.440380


We present a direct and proxy-based approach to qualitatively and semi-quantitatively observe floating plastic litter in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) based on a survey in 2018 using very high geo-spatial resolution 8-waveband WorldView-3 imagery. A proxy for the plastics was defined as a waveband difference for anomalies in the top-of-the-atmosphere spectra. The anomalies were computed by subtracting spatially varying reflectance of the surrounding ocean water as background from the top-of-the-atmosphere reflectance. Spectral shapes and magnitude were also evaluated using a reference target of known plastics, The Ocean Cleanup System 001 Wilson. Presence of ‘suspected plastics’ was confirmed by the similarity in derived anomalies and spectral shapes with respect to the known plastics in the image as well as direct observations in the true color composites. The proposed proxy-based approach is a step towards future mapping techniques of suspected floating plastics with potential operational monitoring applications from the Sentinel-2 that recently started regular imaging over the GPGP that will be supported or validated by numerical solutions and net trawling survey.