On Wednesday 19th June, a comprehensive survey of plastics in rivers was released by Greenpeace, which revealed some shocking results about the state of our rivers in the UK. The leading headline was that the River Mersey was found to be proportionately more polluted than the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This year, we are celebrating 25 years since the first local Rivers Trust set up. In this time, we’ve come such a long way in fighting things that are unseen to the public eye, such as, historical pollution, phosphates, chemicals, abstraction and of course the increasing impacts of climate change. All this hard work and dedication has led to salmon being spotted in the centre of Sheffield, otters appearing near Manchester and some of our rivers are more natural and supporting more wildlife than we’ve seen in over 100 years. But now we have a new fight to add to our list. Plastic. A frightful epidemic that we are all addicted to. As time goes on the plastic in the rivers grind down into tiny micro and nano-plastics and become significantly harder to eradicate. But it isn’t just wet wipes and plastic bottles, though these are some of the worst offenders, the latest BBC programme ‘War on Plastic’, presented by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani, found even tiny micro-fibres are getting into our water system from our clothes. The extent of the problem is huge and it is in all our hands to fix. Here are some of the headline stats found in the Greenpeace report:
- All 13 UK Rivers tested contained plastic
- A total of 1,271 pieces of plastic were captured
- The highest concentration of plastics was found in the River Mersey
- Microbeads were found in 5 of 13 rivers
- 7 locations contained plastic pellets called ‘nurdles’
- 80% of polymer types were polyethylene and polypropylene used to make plastic products such as food packaging, milk, plastic bags and water bottles.