Advancing deep learning-based detection of floating litter using a novel open dataset

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Supervised Deep Learning (DL) methods have shown promise in monitoring the floating litter in rivers and urban canals but further advancements are hard to obtain due to the limited availability of relevant labeled data. To address this challenge, researchers often utilize techniques such as transfer learning (TL) and data augmentation (DA). However, there is no study currently reporting a rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of these approaches for floating litter detection and their effects on the models' generalization capability. To overcome the problem of limited data availability, this work introduces the “TU Delft—Green Village” dataset, a novel labeled dataset of 9,473 camera and phone images of floating macroplastic litter and other litter items, captured using experiments in a drainage canal of TU Delft. We use the new dataset to conduct a thorough evaluation of the detection performance of five DL architectures for multi-class image classification. We focus the analysis on a systematic evaluation of the benefits of TL and DA on model performances. Moreover, we evaluate the generalization capability of these models for unseen litter items and new device settings, such as increasing the cameras' height and tilting them to 45°. The results obtained show that, for the specific problem of floating litter detection, fine-tuning all layers is more effective than the common approach of fine-tuning the classifier alone. Among the tested DA techniques, we find that simple image flipping boosts model accuracy the most, while other methods have little impact on the performance. The SqueezeNet and DenseNet121 architectures perform the best, achieving an overall accuracy of 89.6 and 91.7%, respectively. We also observe that both models retain good generalization capability which drops significantly only for the most complex scenario tested, but the overall accuracy raises significantly to around 75% when adding a limited amount of images to training data, combined with flipping augmentation. The detailed analyses conducted here and the released open source dataset offer valuable insights and serve as a precious resource for future research.