One strike against the human species is that we’ve filled the Earth’s oceans and beaches with garbage. A point in our favor, though: We’ve figured out how to use 3-D laser scanners to automatically measure and analyze that trash, which could help assess the problem and prioritize efforts to clean it up. We might even mount those laser scanners on robots.
The world needs a better method for tracking shoreline refuse, says the coastal researcher Zhijun Dai at East China Normal University in Shanghai. A beach littered with plastic bags and cigarette butts might ruin vacation Instagrams, but it’s even worse for a seabird, fish, or endangered turtle that eats garbage or gets tangled in it.