PROJECT

Preventing Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution is a serious threat to our natural environment with eight million tons of plastic waste escaping into the oceans from our rivers and coastal nations every year. Focusing on the River Medway in southern England, we are working with communities, schools, businesses, and other partner organisations to understand, remove and reduce plastic pollution.

This work is part of the Preventing Plastic Pollution Project, working with 18 organisations from across France and England and funded by the EU INTERREG VA France (Channel) England Programme project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

 

  • Started

    2020

  • Partners across the UK and France

    18

  • Pilot catchments

    7

  • Running until

    2023

Problematic plastic

Plastic is a great invention and a really important and useful material. However, when it is not used or disposed of correctly, it then becomes problematic.

Every year, eight million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from our rivers and coastal nations. Here it injures or kills aquatic life, and eventually breaks down into microplastic – getting into our food chain.

This is why we are part of the Preventing Plastic Pollution Project – to help everyone understand, remove and reduce plastic pollution.

Plastic pollution

Understanding plastic pollution

Despite the highly publicised problem of plastics in oceans, initiatives have failed to look upstream and systematically tackle the role that rivers play as a pathway and source of plastic.

Working with local volunteers, we have been removing plastic pollution from the Medway and categorising each piece of plastic found. This gives us clues to identify the main sources of plastic pollution for the river.

Our GIS Team has used this data alongside other information to create a plastic risk map – highlighting the areas most at risk of plastic pollution.

Volunteers tackling plastic pollution © South East Rivers Trust

Removing plastic pollution

Every year, we are running a series of clean-up events to remove plastic pollution from the Medway. We’ve had volunteers wade in the Medway with us, meet us on the foreshore to remove plastic from the beach and even join us by canoe.

We are also trialling different plastic traps to capture plastic before it reaches the river. Watch this space to find out more.

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Removing plastic pollution © South East Rivers Trust

Reducing plastic pollution

Prevention is the best cure. That is why a large part of our work is focused on sustainable plastic use, reducing plastic pollution at its source.

In 2022, we will work with:

  • local businesses to explore sustainable approaches to plastic,
  • communities to become single-use plastic-free,
  • schools to educate pupils on the problem with plastic, and
  • residents to become plastic champions by adopting river-friendly behaviours.
Engaging schools about plastic © South East Rivers Trust

What is the Preventing Plastic Pollution Project?

Working in partnership with 18 organisations from across France and England, Preventing Plastic Pollution seeks to understand and reduce the impacts of plastic pollution in the marine environment. By looking at the catchment from source to sea, the project will identify and target hotspots for plastic, embed behaviour change in local communities and businesses, and implement effective solutions and alternatives.

Preventing Plastic Pollution (PPP) is a €14million funded EU INTERREG VA France (Channel) England Programme project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (€9.9million) which will work across seven pilot sites: Brest Harbour, Bay of Douarnenez, Bay of Veys, Poole Harbour, and the Medway, Tamar, and Great Ouse estuaries.

The information gathered from research in these areas will allow the cross-Channel partnerships to tackle some of the four million tonnes of plastic waste that enter the sea via rivers every year.

Visit Preventing Plastic Pollution

Plastic on a beach © South East Rivers Trust

Project objectives

Preventing Plastic Pollution will improve the quality of Transitional Waters across the France (Channel) England area (SO 3.2) by:

  • Developing a scalable and transferable mapping tool to provide quantifiable evidence of sources and quantities of plastic pollution in catchments.
  • Developing an effective portfolio of innovative interventions to reduce plastic waste in or entering catchments.
  • Transforming the behaviour of target groups and demonstrating best practice.
Clearing plastic pollution © South East Rivers Trust

Expected project results

Preventing Plastic Pollution will improve water quality with

  • a) A 10% improvement in good ecological status (WFD Descriptor 10) in transitional waters.
  • b) A reduction in the harm caused by plastic pollution in rivers and the sea equivalent to €38.8M-€126M (150km river/coast cleared, 200 tonnes plastic removed).
  • c) A plastic-free charter implemented by 650 businesses and 50 supply chains modified.
  • d) Projected uptake to include+10 more catchments for two years post-project, and 100 catchments after five years.
Hadlow College sorting plastic © South East Rivers Trust

The Preventing Plastic Pollution partnership

  • Queen Mary University of London
  • LABOCEA Conseil, Expertise et Analyses
  • Syndicat mixte établissement public de gestion et d’aménagement de la baie de Douarnenez
  • Office Français De La Biodiversité, Parc naturel marin d’Iroise
  • Brest Métropole
  • Centre national de la recherche scientifique
  • Counseil départemental de la Manche
  • Institut français de recherche pour l’exploitation de la mer
  • Environment Agency
  • The Rivers Trust
  • Syndicat de bassin de l’Elorn
  • ACTIMAR
  • Brest’aim
  • Westcountry Rivers Trust
  • South East Rivers Trust
  • Plymouth City Council
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • University of Plymouth
Hadlow College sorting plastic © South East Rivers Trust

Thanks to our supporters

Preventing Plastic Pollution
Heritage Lottery Fund
Medway Swale Estuary Partnership
Medway Valley Countryside Partnership