Plastic Free Mersey enters its fourth year of citizen science and engagement

Our Plastic Free Mersey delivery partner Mersey Rivers Trust held a litter pick community event on Tuesday 26th of March. Thames21 and the Mersey Rivers Trust lead this project, which is funded by LyondellBasell, INEOS Inovyn, and the British Plastics Federation, and supported by RECOUP. This is an innovative, collaborative citizen science initiative which aims to reduce plastic pollution in the Mersey River catchment in North West England. The project fosters multi-stakeholder cooperation to tackle one of the most urgent issues affecting various rivers in the Mersey catchment.

Over a two-hour period, eight volunteers participated and collected 38 bags of litter along the River Irk in northern Manchester. On average each participant filled one bag every half an hour. This is the 12th river clean-up event in our project, which has now entered its fourth year.

The project team is currently working to recruit and train new volunteers. Four new local citizen scientists have been trained in the last few months. They are going to work on the River Wirral (at Arrowe Brook), in Northenden, the River Mersey (in Fletcher Moss), and the Borsdane Brook (in Aspull).

We are convening a workshop with stakeholders in June to discuss our findings and identify actions and solutions. We have identified one site for pilot intervention to test litter reduction measures by collecting data before and after the works, which are being determined with the local councils.

Plastic food packaging, cigarette butts, sanitary items, and bags are among the top five items found by our volunteers on riverbanks in the Mersey catchment over the last two years. Fragments were also abundant, most often estimated to add up to 1-9 or 10-99 on average in each 60m2 riverbank section surveyed.

Although it is difficult to determine sources of litter precisely, these most likely include park users, drivers who eject litter from their windows, smokers, and wind and flood water carrying litter downstream along riverbanks. Our workshop with local authorities and community members will look at interventions and campaigns to deter littering of the most littered items and other waste leakage into the River Mersey and its tributaries.

Macroplastic pollution is a central issue affecting the Mersey catchment today. The Plastic Free Mersey project plays a significant role in understanding sources of pollution, gathering data and identifying and implementing collaborative solutions to address this pervasive problem so that local rivers can become cleaner and safer for people and wildlife.

For more information on the Plastic Free Mersey project:

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