We’ve been using satellites for a lot of things, including monitoring things here on the surface. Can they be used to help track plastic and assist in clean up efforts though? The answer is yes! But it’s sort of difficult.
Plastic waste in our water ways is really small. Even smaller if you’re in space looking down and even at their best, satellites can’t get the view focused enough to just see the waste. The good news is that plastic has a different reflected light signature than plants and animals so that may make finding it possible.
This method is still being researched and refined but will likely focus on the coastal areas rather than the wide open ocean, which is fine! As most plastic that finds it’s way into the sea comes from rivers and such feeding into the ocean. Just one more possible way to fight against pollution.