River Clyde Tested on Plastic Pollution Project

27 March 2019, 06:56 | Updated: 27 March 2019, 07:04

Plastic bottles

Environmentalists are testing water from the river Clyde as part of an investigation into plastic pollution around the UK.

Greenpeace volunteers and scientists will collect water samples from two different points along the Clyde on Wednesday using a filtering device called a manta net.

The samples will then be sent to the University of Exeter where they will be analysed using fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, a cutting-edge infrared plastic detector, and compared with samples from other major rivers across the UK.

The results will be collated into a scientific report on the plastic load in UK rivers which will be released later this year.

Greenpeace is calling on the UK Government to tackle the "plastic crisis" by setting new legally-binding targets in the forthcoming Environment Bill to radically reduce single-use plastics.

The organisation is also urging the Government to create an independent environmental watchdog to ensure that these and other "vital" targets are met.

Fiona Nicholls, Greenpeace UK plastics campaigner, said: "More frightening facts seem to emerge about plastic pollution every month. It's in our water, our food, the air; it's polluting the most remote parts of our planet.

"But the scariest fact is that if we carry on with business as usual plastic production is set to quadruple by 2050. It's clear our rivers and oceans simply can't stomach this.

"That's why Greenpeace is urging the Government to ensure that their new Environment Bill sets specific targets for reducing the amount of throwaway plastic being made."

Greenpeace said that microplastics - very tiny plastic particles that come from degraded plastics and synthetic clothing - can be toxic to wildlife and fragile ecosystems and represent a vast proportion of the plastics that flow directly from rivers out into the sea.

Environmentalists are testing the rivers Severn, Trent, Clyde, Exe, Aire, Wye, River Great Ouse (East of England), Conwy, Lagan, Derwent, Wear, Mersey and Thames as part of the project.

Kirsten Thompson, lecturer in Ecology at the University of Exeter said: "There are a lot of studies showing how much plastic is in our seas and oceans, but very few so far investigating the amounts and types of plastics, especially microplastics, carried along by our rivers.

"Documentaries like Blue Planet have shown us just how detrimental plastic pollution is to marine wildlife, but we hope that our research on rivers in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England will help uncover exactly where this plastic is coming from and the impact that plastic pollution may be having closer to home."

A UK Government spokeswoman said: "As the custodians of our planet, we must take action now to protect the ocean and wildlife from plastic pollution.

"Through our 25 Year Environment Plan, we have committed to eliminating avoidable plastic waste, but we have been clear we will go further and faster where we can.

"We committed in our world-leading Resources and Waste Strategy to work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, in advance of comparable international targets.

"Draft clauses for the Environment Bill establish a new, independent environment body, create a statutory framework for environmental principles, and put our flagship 25 Year Environment Plan into law."