• Digital tool
  • Model

Ocean Plastic Simulator

This web-based interactive tool tracks how floating plastic waste moves around New Zealand's coastline, and has potential for environmental and biosecurity monitoring, and aquaculture

Anyone can use this online interactive tool to 'drop' virtual plastic into the ocean in 4 different locations:

  • Cook Strait
  • Tauranga Moana
  • Golden and Tasman Bays
  • Hauraki Gulf/Firth of Thames

Potential applications

Initially designed as an educational tool for schools – and developed with student and teacher input – it has potential for aquaculture and environmental and biosecurity monitoring. With the right source data, it can easily be modified to show where plastic pollution has come from or to predict movement of living things so the aquaculture industry could use it to track (or predict) larvae, spat, or lost equipment, and biosecurity staff could track (or predict) the spread of invasive species.

The tool includes a section exploring the importance of the ocean for Māori, which includes stories from iwi.

How it works

The tool combines regional models of tides, winds and currents with a 'particle tracking engine' and maps to simulate the path taken by plastic water bottles floating in the top 3 metres of the sea, and how long they take to get to their destination.

It takes less than 10 secs to simulate movement of 100 pieces of plastic over 30 days, or until they are beached.