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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Queen Mary lead European project to tackle plastic pollution

A €14m joint project involving key partners across England and France has launched this week in a bid to prevent plastic hotspots in the Channel


Plastic pollution on the Upper Lea. Credit: James Pretty

Preventing Plastic Pollution (PPP), led by Queen Mary researcher Dr J Iwan Jones, will develop a model to gather data on the amount and likely sources of plastic pollution at seven pilot sites: Brest Harbour, Bay of Douarnenez, Bay of Veys, Poole Harbour, and the Medway Tamar, and Great Ouse estuaries. 

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

Finding cost-effective, sustainable solutions

Using a targeted approach, experts will evaluate plastic pollution entering the catchments and identify pollution hotspots from source to sea. They will assess the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of current and innovative approaches and create a portfolio of removal methods to prevent and manage pollution.

Dr J Iwan Jones, Head of the River Communities Group at Queen Mary University of London and project lead of Preventing Plastic Pollution, said: “Now people are aware of plastic pollution and the damage that it causes, we need to develop a cost-effective strategy to deal with the problem. We’re excited to be leading this strong cross-border partnership, working together to reduce the impact that plastic pollution has on the environment.”

The €14m project was approved by the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme, which has committed €9.9m in funding through the European Regional Development Fund. 

The idea stemmed from a ‘targeted lab’ on plastic pollution organised by the Programme, which brought together experts from across the UK and France on this theme to help them develop partnerships and project ideas.

Involving the local community

The project, which will start immediately and run until 2023, will involve 160 river clearance community events and work with agriculture and fishing/maritime industries on ways to capture and remove plastic waste from their activities.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive at The Rivers Trust, said: “Plastic not only pollutes our rivers, but it also gets washed out to sea where it contributes to the global plastic pollution crisis.  By looking at the river catchment as a whole, we can start to understand the sources, hotspots and pathways related to plastic pollution and take action to address them.” 

“Our local Rivers Trusts and Catchment Partnerships throughout the eligible area will be calling on volunteers and citizen scientists to help them with this project.  We really want local communities to get involved in this ground-breaking partnership project.”

More information

The full list of partners involved in the project are:

  • 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, Brest Métropole, Centre national de la recherche scientifique
  • Counseil départemental de la Manche
  • L'Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer (Ifremer)
  • Environment Agency
  • The Rivers Trust
  • Syndicat de bassin de l’Elorn
  • Brest’aim
  • Westcountry Rivers Trust
  • South East Rivers Trust
  • Plymouth City Council
  • Department for Environment
  • Food and Rural Affairs
  • University of Plymouth



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