Plastic pollution is one of the most significant environmental issues in the world. The rapid increase of the cumulative amount of plastic waste has caused alarm, and the public have called for actions to mitigate its impacts on the environment. Numerous governments and social activists from various non-profit organisations have set up policies and actively promoted awareness and have engaged the public in discussions on this issue. Nevertheless, social responsibility is the key to a sustainable environment, and individuals are accountable for performing their civic duty and commit to behavioural changes that can reduce the use of plastics. This paper explores a set of topic modelling techniques to assist policymakers and environment communities in understanding public opinions about the issues related to plastic pollution by analysing social media data. We report on an experiment in which a total of 274,404 tweets were collected from Twitter that are related to plastic pollution, and five topic modelling techniques, including (a) Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA), (b) Hierarchical Dirichlet Process (HDP), (c) Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), (d) Non-Negative Matrix Factorisation (NMF), and (e) extension of LDA—Structural Topic Model (STM), were applied to the data to identify popular topics of online conversations, considering topic coherence, topic prevalence, and topic correlation. Our experimental results show that some of these topic modelling techniques are effective in detecting and identifying important topics surrounding plastic pollution, and potentially different techniques can be combined to develop an efficient system for mining important environment-related topics from social media data on a large scale.
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