{{ content.logo.text }}

  • {{searchSuggestions.title}}


Marine litter is a global issue, impacting seas and freshwater systems. Plastics end up in the ocean for a variety of reasons, including poor waste management, illegal dumping, and littering. Solutions are needed to prevent and solve the issues of marine litter and, especially, plastics in water bodies. Space technologies and data can play a significant part in preventing and solving problems relating to this.

Enel’s partner ESA has issued an open competitive tender for a feasibility study offering up to 200K Euro zero equity funding per activity to investigate the technical feasibility and economic viability of space based applications in support of reducing environmental impact of plastics/marine litter, and define a roadmap for services implementation and demonstration.

For additional information on how to apply, you will be redirected to the ESA website: (see “Plastic-Less Society (Feasibility Study)” ref AO10415)

This challenge privides contribution to the following UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 13: Climate Action
  • SDG 14: Life Below Water



Marine litter is a global issue, impacting seas and freshwater systems. Plastics constitute the majority of marine litter (OSPAR commission) and scientists predict that plastic waste in the ocean will amount to 250 million tons by 2025 (J. R. Jambeck et al., Science).

Plastics end up in the ocean for a variety of reasons, including poor waste management, illegal dumping, and littering. Most marine litter is created from land-based activities, while 20% is caused by marine activities like fishing and shipping. Coastal tourism (plastics bags, bottles, packaging), aquaculture and fisheries (discarding or losing fishing gear), shipping (ship-generated waste, plastic blasting in shipyards), cosmetics (use of microbeads), and fashion and textiles (synthetic fibres released during washing) all play a significant part in plastics entering the ocean. The impact of plastic litter is huge. The United Nations estimated that every year plastic marine litter causes $13 billion of financial damage to marine ecosystems globally. Marine animals are often killed or injured after becoming entangled in derelict fishing nets or ingesting plastic. Marine litter imposes high clean-up costs on beaches and can have a profound impact on tourism. Increasingly, it is becoming a concern for human health; seafood can become contaminated with plastic particles and pollutants that are harmful to humans. In spite of these negative impacts, there is very limited available data on marine litter concentrations. Innovative solutions are needed to prevent and solve the issues of marine litter and, especially, plastics in water bodies.



The main objectives of this Feasibility Study are assess the technical feasibility and commercial viability of innovative space based services for reducing the plastic environmental impact and support circular economy models, reduce the technical and commercial risks for services implementation and operation, provide recommendations for the implementation of such service(s) on the targeted market, and prepare a potential roadmap for a follow-on demonstration project.



  • Monitoring and modelling plastic pollution in the ocean
  • Monitoring and improving the logistics of plastic collection
  • Tracking and tracing goods along a supply chain to reduce the likelihood of products or waste products ending up in water bodies
  • Identifying illegal activities, such as waste dumping into oceans
  • Improving waste management techniques
  • Supporting the selection of new recycling infrastructure and improving recycling techniques
  • Performing ex ante analysis of recycling missions impact
  • Developing tele-education programmes tailored to developing economies: educate the local communities on marine litter and plastic impact to the environment



Space technologies and data can play a significant part in preventing and solving problems relating to marine litter. 


Satellite navigation (SATNAV)

  • Satellite navigation (GNSS) provides accurate location information to track and trace goods being transported along the supply chain. 
  • It provides positioning information to support cleaning systems on the ground and at sea.
  • It provides positioning information in support of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and automated cleaning systems. When equipped with optical and radar payloads UAVs can perform accurate analysis over specific areas of interest. 
  • Satellite – Automatic Identification Systems (SAT-AIS) can provide insight into the movement of seafaring vessels and can be used to prevent pollution caused by ships and improve pollution response. 


Satellite communications (SATCOM)

  • SATCOM enables communication when no terrestrial network is available e.g. in remote areas and at sea.  
  • It can also enhance communication network robustness and communication resilience by acting as a back-up when on-ground systems are down. 
  • SATCOM can enable data from offshore sensors (on vessels of other platforms) and crowdsourced data to be transmitted.
  • It can provide communication in support of tele-education programmes covering rural locations.
  • SATCOM provides Command and Control/payload communication links for UAVs or High Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS) equipped with marine litter detection payloads.


Earth observation (SATEO) 

  • SatEO data can be used to measure and detect sea-borne plastic waste. 
  • Multi-spectral, hyper-spectral and high resolution optical satellites, as well as satellite radar data, can be used to pin-point potential areas of plastic accumulation, and monitor plastic “hotspots”. 
  • Data on ocean currents and other factors (sea state) can be collected and inputted into predictive models of marine litter accumulation.



The feasibility study shall eventually aim at proposing pre-operational demonstration project(s) to be performed consecutively to the feasibility study – potentially as ESA co-funded Demonstration Project within the Business Applications - Space Solutions Programme, in preparation for the operational services. Details on study deliverables are available in the tender documentation (http://emits.sso.esa.int, ref. AO10415)

Challenge rules

All proposers are invited to read carefully the instruction available at ESA dedicated web page and download the official tender documentation from ESA EMITS (http://emits.sso.esa.int ref. AO10415).



For this call, companies or organisations residing in the following Member States will be eligible to apply: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The applicable funding level of the individual prime - or subcontractors is subject to authorisation by the involved National Delegation(s). Therefore, bidding teams are requested to obtain a Letter of Authorisation from all the respective national delegations before submitting the Proposal.


ESA Tender Information

Responding to an open competitive Invitation to Tender (ITT) requires the submission of a Proposal. The Proposal will be evaluated according to ESA regulations and procedures. The consequential evaluation of proposals results in a recommendation for a winning bid. In the case that several proposals of good quality targeting different and/or complementary aspects are submitted, the Agency reserves the right to place parallel contracts for each of the open competitive ITTs in coordination with the relevant national delegations.


The proposals will be admitted until October 27, 2020 at 13:00 (local time in Amsterdam) and the evaluation will start after this date.

What happens next?

How to Apply

The Prime and all subcontractors must register as potential bidders via esa-star, prior to downloading the official tender documents from EMITS http://emits.sso.esa.int/emits/owa/emits.main and submitting their Proposal. The registration process needs to be started as soon as possible, as it will take time to complete. Submit your proposal before the deadline 30 September 2020 at 13:00 (local time in Amsterdam).

ESA will evaluate the proposals received.


About the Seeker

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. ESA is an international organisation with 22 Member States. By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, it can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.


ESA Space Solutions

ESA Space Solutions aims at reaching commercial exploitation of space assets, data and capabilities addressing incubation, proving technical feasibility and business development. This includes the development of operational services for a wide range of users through the combination of different systems, and support in creating viable companies as well as to existing companies.