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High levels of microplastic pollution found in Britain's rivers and lakes


Britain's waterways are rife with plastic pollution, a new study finds.

An analysis of ten major lakes and rivers found high levels of tiny 'microplastics', which, once in the water, go on to permeate every level of the food chain and can even end up on the dinner plate.

The study, conducted by Bangor University for Friends of the Earth, found varying degrees of microplastics in every stretch of water examined.

River Tame tops league

The highest of which was in the River Tame, where more than 1,000 pieces were recorded per litre, while even the remote Loch Lomond had 2.4 tiny plastic fragments a litre. The Ullswater lake in the Lake District contained 29.5 pieces per litre.

The key sources of plastic pollution are car tire dust, clothing fibres, paint, road markings and nurdles - the tiny plastic pellets that are glued together to make products that have escaped from lorries on the way to the factory.“

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," said Christian Dunn, of Bangor University.

Wordsworth wouldn't approve

"I’m sure Wordsworth would not be happy to discover his beloved Ullswater in the Lake District was polluted with plastic," he said.

“These findings show that we have to start taking the issue of plastic in our inland waters seriously," he added.

The researchers use a fluorescence lighting system to identify and count microplastic pollutants - less than 5 mm in size- such as plastic fragments, fibres and film.

Plastic pollution is everywhere
Friends of the Earth and Dr Dunn say microplastics have been identified in waterways in such large numbers that routine monitoring of all UK waters must now take place.

Julian Kirby, plastics campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: “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,” he added.

PANEL:

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 )