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GIC’s Innovative Approach to Tackling Plastic Pollution: A Highlight at SDG Digital Day 2023

18 Sep 2023
AIT webmaster

By Geoinformatics Center (GIC) and AIT Public Affairs

18 September 2023 – The Geoinformatics Center (GIC) at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) has been actively involved in the UNEP CounterMEASURE project, which has been selected as a notable example for approaching  Sustainable Development Goal No. 14 (Life Below Water) during UN SDG Digital Day on September 17, 2023. GIC’s contribution focused on using digital technology and location mapping to monitor and understand plastic pollution. This innovative approach aims to address the challenges posed by plastic pollution effectively.

Since 2019, the UN Environment Programme has been working on a clean rivers program in Asia, including the Mekong and Ganges River Basins. With support from the Government of Japan, the CounterMEASURE project was initiated to combat plastic pollution in river environments.

The project’s success is attributed to strong partnerships and collaboration, including AIT’s involvement in providing solutions related to SDGs. The CounterMEASURE project was chosen as the showcase solution for SDG14 (Life Below Water) during the United Nations’ SDG Digital Day, at the ECOSOC chamber, preceding the SDG Summit. Out of over 300 applicants and 34 shortlisted solutions, CounterMEASURE was selected as one of the solutions representing the 17 SDGs.

GIC has responded to the global call for digital solutions to achieve the 17 SDGs. Working alongside partners in the UNEP CounterMEASURE project, GIC advocates for digital solutions in plastic waste monitoring. They have introduced ‘pLitter,’ a smart plastic litter monitoring system. pLitter is the platform developed by GIC as the initiative to integrate the workflow from citizen scientist and machine learning, into the mapping the locations of plastic in the environment.

The CounterMEASURE project was presented by Golestan Sally Radwan, Chief Digital Officer of UNEP, who emphasized the significance of addressing the plastic waste issue with digital solutions. She acknowledged GIC’s crucial support in providing system information and methodologies for tackling plastic waste and stressed the importance of sharing geo-referenced data on plastic pollution in rivers and streets through innovative means.

“It’s not possible to entirely eliminate plastic from our economy or daily lives, so the key is to focus on the most problematic plastic item and the location with the highest pollution, causing plastic leakage into our natural environment,” Sally stated in her speech. This becomes the core principle of the plastic portfolio in GIC, where we located the hotspots and leakage of plastic at the city level.

“To make substantial strides toward achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we need to ensure that digital transformation benefits everyone. This achievement demonstrates AIT’s ability to collaborate with the UN High Impact Initiative, Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI),” Dr. Kavinda Gunasekara, AIT’s CounterMEASURE Project lead, stressed. DPI can maximize the opportunities for digitalization to accelerate the SDGs, unlock innovation and value at scale, and strengthen local digital ecosystems. 

Moving ahead, GIC is committed to intensifying efforts to monitor and combat plastic pollution. They plan to enhance ‘pLitter’ and expand its use in different European river basin regions. The goal is to provide comprehensive plastic monitoring coverage and raise awareness through the digital solutions developed by GIC.

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Plitter website: http://plitter.org