Two new reports:
1. Microplastic pollution revealed ‘absolutely everywhere’ by new research from Bangor University in UK lakes and Rivers
New research by Bangor University and Friends of the Earth has found microplastic pollution in some of Britain’s most iconic and remote rivers and lakes. The study, believed to be the first of its kind, looked at ten sites – including lakes in the Lake District, waterways in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, a wetland and Welsh reservoir – and found microplastics in all of them.
Friends of the Earth and Dr Christian Dunn, of Bangor University (who led the research) say the findings suggest that microplastics should now be considered as an emergent contaminant – and that routine monitoring of all UK waters must now take place. Friends of the Earth is also urging MPs to support new legislation, currently before Parliament, to phase out plastic pollution within 25 years – including an end to non-essential single-use plastic by 2025.
Using a fluorescence lighting system, researchers were able to identify and count microplastic pollutants (less than 5 mm in size) per litre of water, such as plastic fragments, fibres and film.
The preliminary findings revealed microplastic pollution levels ranging from over a 1,000 pieces of plastic per litre in the river Tame in Greater Manchester , to 2.4 pieces per litre in Loch Lomond.
They estimated that huge quantities of microplastic pollution are entering UK waterways from a number of sources every year. The key sources of pollution include car tyres (7,000-19,000 tonnes), clothing (150-2,900 tonnes), plastic pellets used to make plastic items (200-5,900 tonnes) and paints on buildings and road markings (1,400-3,700 tonnes).
Friends of the Earth and Dr Christian Dunn say further work is now essential to fully investigate any health risks from microplastics – to humans and ecosystems – so that “safe” levels can be ascertained, and removal and mitigation processes can be put in place.
The waterways surveyed (including pieces of plastic per litre of water) were:
- River Thames, London (84.1)
- Chester reedbed (7.6)
- Ullswater, Lake District (29.5)
- River Irwell, Salford, Greater Manchester (84.8)
- River Tame, Tameside, Greater Manchester (>1,000)
- River Blackwater, Essex (15.1)
- Falls of Dochart, Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park (3.3)
- Loch Lomond, Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park (2.4)
- Afon Cegin – river; North Wales (76.9)
- Llyn Cefni – reservoir; Anglesey, Wales (43.2 )
2. Bacterial contamination of plastic nurdles on Scottish beaches – new paper
The hard surface of waterborne plastic provides an ideal environment for the formation of biofilm by opportunistic microbial colonisers, and could facilitate a novel means of dispersal for microorganisms across coastal and marine environments. Biofilms that colonise the so-called ‘plastisphere’ could also be a reservoir for faecal indicator organisms (FIOs), such as Escherichia coli, or pathogenic bacteria such as species of Vibrio. Therefore, the aim of this study was to map the spatial distribution of beach-cast plastic resin pellets (nurdles) at five public bathing beaches, and quantify their colonisation by E. coli and Vibrio spp. Nurdles were heterogeneously distributed along the high tide mark at all five beaches, and each beach contained nurdles that were colonised by E. coli and Vibrio spp. Knowledge of E. coli colonisation and persistence on nurdles should now be used to inform coastal managers about the additional risks associated with plastic debris. Click here to access the paper