In recent years, the impact of plastic on the environment has risen far up the agenda of both the public and major businesses worldwide. The western world now realises a revised approach to how we use and treat plastic is required.

We are now well aware of the threat plastic pollution poses to our marine life and our oceans, but what about freshwater? Plastic pollution comes from the land, feeding into our river systems before it reaches the sea.

Acknowledging the ugly scar it leaves on our waters leads to further questions; what can we do to stem the flow reaching our oceans? Where does it come from? And what impact does it have on our rivers?

The Trust are currently developing a number of approaches and monitoring and research projects which aim to tackle these questions and challenges from a number of different angles, including re-use of plastic waste collected from our rivers to learning more about the inputs of plastic pollution in our chalk streams.

Microplastics in our chalk streams?

Recent studies in some of England’s more urban river systems, such as the Thames and Mersey, have recorded more plastic pollution than the notorious Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area recognised by scientists as one of the most plastic-polluted expanses of water on earth (Greenpeace).

Whilst the more rural environments of our rivers don’t quite match up to the industrialised scale and history of pollution as the likes of the Mersey, our knowledge and understanding of both the presence and potential impact posed by plastic pollution is distinctly lacking.

Driven by the desire of our partners and supporters to know more about this potential issue, the Trust have devised an approach alongside the environmental charity Earthwatch to find out more about microplastic pollution in the Test and Itchen river catchments.