Proof of concept for a model of light reflectance of plastics floating on natural waters

Lonneke Goddijn-Murphy, Juvenal Dufaur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Remote sensing of plastic littering natural waters is an emerging field of science with the potential to provide observations on local to global scales. We present the verification of a theoretical reflectance model of sunlight interacting with a water surface littered with buoyant plastic objects. We measured a few common litter items of different polymers as well as shapes, transparencies, and surface roughnesses. Spectral reflectance measurements in the field were backed up with measurements in the laboratory of coefficients of total and diffuse reflectance, transmittance and absorption. We evaluated a single-band algorithm for 850 nm wavelength and a dual-band algorithm using a second wavelength at a polymer absorption band between 1660 and 1730 nm. Both algorithms were plastic litter type specific. Our findings show that for interpreting spectral remote sensing of floating plastic, physical properties that control geometrical optics should complement information about the absorption spectra of the polymer.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberMPB9706
Pages (from-to)1145-1157
Number of pages13
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue numberc
Early online date1 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Algorithms
  • Environmental Monitoring/methods
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Plastics/chemistry
  • Ponds
  • Remote Sensing Technology/methods
  • Scotland
  • Sunlight
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical/chemistry


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