New technologies will be installed across Sydney Harbour under a pilot to prevent plastic pollution ending up in our oceans.

Each year, 3500 cubic metres of litter is collected from Sydney Harbour. This is the equivalent of 44,000 wheelie bins worth of litter in our water.

But in good news, we’re partnering with local groups, councils and State Government to install new technologies across Sydney Harbour to help prevent plastic pollution ending up there.

Monitoring plastic pollution makes sense

We’re working on a project with the Sydney Coastal Councils Group, the Parramatta River Catchment Group and the Sydney Olympic Park Authority, co-funded by the NSW Government.

The project uses cameras and machine learning to identify and count floating plastic along Sydney’s waterways. We’ve also developed smart sensors in gross pollutant traps which will be installed around Sydney Harbour.

These traps are like underground rubbish bins. However, when there is too much rubbish in the traps, litter can escape into the Harbour. They also require regular maintenance and cleaning.

The sensors will improve monitoring of the traps to make the process more efficient, more cost effective and safer. It will also help stop waste from potentially entering the harbour. This will help protect people swimming in the harbour and safeguard marine biodiversity.

Rubbish in a concrete hole

Gross pollutant traps stop rubbish ending up in our oceans.
Credit: Ocean Protect

Keeping an eye on litter

Along with the traps and sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) will be used to identify the types of litter moving along estuaries and creeks. The video software will be able to tell a chip packet from a soft drink bottle. This will provide useful and accurate data to agencies looking after the waterways.

This data will help identify where there are litter hot spots. Plus, how best to dispose of the waste collected. The information will also help councils understand what intervention and community education methods might work best to stop the rubbish from ending up in Sydney Harbour in the first place.

Reducing plastic pollution in our cities

We’ve already been trialling this technology in Hobart, with the City of Hobart.

At the end of the Sydney trial, our team will assess its success. The aim is for technology to be rolled out across the Greater Sydney region and beyond. This will support interested councils with their stormwater management efforts.

This research is part of our Ending Plastic Waste Mission, which has a goal of an 80 per cent reduction in plastic waste entering the Australian environment by 2030.


  1. Why don’t the authorities process the plastic pollution in a pyrolysis unit and use the fuel as a saleable product to offset some f the cost of collecting the plastic pollution?

  2. Great idea.

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