Climate Action

New research finds microplastic pollution widespread in iconic British lakes and rivers

A new study has found microplastics in some of the most iconic British remote rivers and lakes.

  • 07 March 2019
  • Rachel Cooper

A new study has found microplastics in some of the most iconic British remote rivers and lakes.

The report, commissioned by Bangor University and Friends of the Earth, looked at 10 sites, including lakes in the Lake District, waterways in Loch Lomond and a Welsh reservoir.

Microplastic pollutants are pieces of plastic that are less than 5mm in size, including plastic fragments, fibres and films. The researchers used a fluorescent lighting system to identify and count the microplastic pollutants per litre of water.

The River Tame in Greater Manchester had over 1,000 pieces of plastic per litre of water, the highest out of the ten sites surveyed. Ullswater in the Lake District had 29.5 pieces per litre of water and the River Thames in London had 84.1.

Dr Christian Dunn, of Bangor University, said: “It was more than a little startling to discover microplastics were present in even the most remote sites we tested, and quite depressing they were there in some of our country’s most iconic locations.”

The UK Government currently has a consultation out on microplastics. Friends of the Earth is urging MPs to back this new legislation to ensure the phase out of plastic pollution within 25 years.

Julian Kirby, plastics campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: “The widespread contamination of our rivers and lakes with microplastic pollution is a major concern, and people will understandably want to know what impact this could have on their health and environment. Plastic pollution is everywhere - it’s been found in our rivers, our highest mountains and our deepest oceans. MPs must get behind new legislation, currently before Parliament, that would commit the government to drastically reduce the flow of plastic pollution that’s blighting our environment.”

This follows Bonne Wright, Harry Potter actress and campaigner, joining forces with Greenpeace to look at microplastics in welsh waters, in another study aimed at highlighting the growing plastic pollution in UK waters.

Photograph: Christian Dunn