Research meetup 13 – Cleaning Up Oceans from Plastic Faster with Optimization

Jean Pauphilet
Photo © Sheila Burnett

29-03-2023 17:00 - 18:00 CET

Jean Pauphilet is an Assistant Professor of Management Science and Operations at London Business School. In his research, he develops new algorithms for large-scale optimization, optimization under uncertainty, and machine learning, and applies them to real-world problems in healthcare and sustainable operations. His work has been published in the likes of Operations Research, Mathematical Programming, and Journal of Machine Learning Research, and recognized by many awards, including the INFORMS George E. Nicholson and the Computing Society best student paper awards. Jean received a Ph.D. in Operations Research from MIT and a Diplôme d'ingénieur from Ecole Polytechnique (Paris).

Introduction

Over 8 million tons of plastic are poured in the seas every year, damaging entire ecosystems from the coastlines up to the open waters. Because of marine currents, a large fraction of this plastic then accumulates in specific areas of the oceans, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) in the Pacific ocean. The Ocean Cleanup is a Dutch nonprofit whose mission is to clean up 90% of ocean plastic pollution. They have developed a technology similar to a fishing net to capture floating plastic and have been operating in the GPGP since mid 2021. In collaboration with the Ocean Cleanup, we designed an efficient dynamic optimization algorithm to find routes in the GPGP that maximize the amount of plastic collected, while taking into account weather (wave height, wind speed) and plastic dynamics. Simulation showed that our optimization-based strategy nearly doubles the average plastic collection yield, thus accelerating the race to plastic-free oceans.

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