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Mersey more plastic polluted than the great Pacific garbage patch

THE UK's River Mersey contains proportionally more plastic pollution than the infamous:- 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch,' an area recognised by scientists as one of the most plastic polluted expanses of water on earth. This was one of the findings of a new scientific study released by Greenpeace which reveals that every one of 13 UK rivers tested were contaminated with microplastics. Researchers collected 942 microplastic pieces by sampling the water surface at 2 locations on the Mersey, for ½ an hour each. This equates to over 2 million pieces of microplastic per square kilometre, double the 1 million pieces per square kilometre found at the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch that accumulates within the North Pacific Gyre. Greenpeace is now putting pressure on the UK Government to set legally binding plastic reduction targets in the upcoming Environment Bill and to create an independent environmental watchdog to enforce those targets.

Fiona Nicholls ocean plastics campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said:- "It's been almost 2 years since Blue Planet 2; and yet plastic use is still set to skyrocket. This study is a wake up call for Government. Fiddling around the edges of the plastic pollution problem by banning straws just doesn't cut it. We need to see bold new plastic reduction targets in the upcoming Environment Bill, and aim to at least halve single use plastic production by 2025."

Scientists and campaigners collected water samples in February and March 2019; at separate points along each of the 13 rivers, which were analysed by Greenpeace scientists at the University of Exeter using a cutting edge infrared plastic detector called a fourier transform infrared spectrometer (FTIR). 

In the 1st nationwide exercise of its kind, experts found:-

All 13 UK rivers tested contained microplastics.

A total of 1,271 pieces of plastic, ranging in size from straw and bottle top fragments to tiny microbeads less than 1mm across.

The River Mersey was proportionally more polluted than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; containing equivalent to 2 million pieces of microplastic per square km.

5 out of 13 rivers contained microbeads; which were partially banned in 2017.

More than ½ the rivers tested contained plastic pellets called:- 'nurdles,' which are used as a raw material in the production of plastic products.

Microplastics are small plastic particles, less than 5 mm in diameter, that are often fragments of larger degraded items like plastic bottles, packaging and bags. Scientific research has found that when eaten by wildlife, such as fish, microplastics can cause gut blockage, alter feeding behaviour, growth rates and reproduction. Previous research has shown that bacteria are able to latch onto pieces of plastic which can cause disease to spread and also that microplastics can both attract and leach out harmful chemicals.  It has since emerged that humans could be ingesting the equivalent of 1 credit card's worth of microplastic every week, via drinking common beverages including bottled water and beer and eating common food stuffs, such as shellfish and salt. The human health impact of this is not yet clear.  Steve Backshall, wildlife expert and TV presenter, said:- "I've seen the impact that plastic pollution has on wildlife 1st hand, and it's crushing to see birds feeding plastic to their young and using it to build their nests. Greenpeace's study has discovered that the River Mersey is even more polluted than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; surely this will galvanise us all into doing something about this. Plastic pollution isn't just a domestic issue, its impacts are seen on wildlife and humans all over the world. For the sake of nature and for the sake of future generations we need to stop producing so much of it; it's the only way forward."

The report findings will be presented at a Parliamentary event, on 19 June 2019, where wildlife expert and TV presenter Steve Backshall will speak and MPs will be urged to sign up in support of plastic reduction targets. 90 MP's have already pledged their support.   Dr David Santillo, Senior Scientist with the Greenpeace Research Laboratories, at the University of Exeter, said:- "The results of this report speak for themselves. Every single river we tested contained microplastic, and given what is known already about the effects of plastics on marine wildlife, it is reasonable to assume that the plastic pollution of our rivers poses some level of threat to river wildlife. There is an urgent need for research to better understand those threats, as well as the risks to human health. We ignore this problem at our peril. Once microplastics are in the river, they become impossible to remove again, so we have to solve the problem at the source."

Knowsley Safari invites Southport Schools to join the war on plastic

KNOWSLEY Safari is calling on Primary Schools across Southport to join the fight against plastic pollution and help improve the sustainability of coastal habitats. The Safari is offering a roadshow of free workshops, which it will deliver in Schools to help children learn about the damage of plastic in the oceans and its impact on marine animals and wildlife. Schools taking part in the roadshow will also be invited to join in beach cleans in:- Formby, Hightown and Rockferry, where volunteers from Knowsley Safari and members of the public will be clearing up coastal waste.

Roadshow workshops feature a host of practical classroom activities including a CSI style investigation examining how plastic has killed a giant turtle, a:- 'who lives here' activity focused on identifying species that live in coastal habitats and a:- 'how we can help' session looking at ways to reduce plastic usage and pollution.  The roadshow will be delivered by experienced members of Knowsley Safari's Learning and Discovery team, which has helped over 25,000 School children learn about wildlife and conservation during the past 12 months. 

Workshops will take place during mid September to coincide with the Marine Conservation Society's:- 'Great British Beach Clean,' which runs from Friday, 20 September to Monday, 23 September 2019. Knowsley Safari is encouraging Schools to sign up now for its roadshow, ahead of the break for the summer holidays.

Nikki Mallott, Head of the Learning and Discovery Team at Knowsley Safari, comments:- "TV programmes like Blue Planet and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's new War on Waste are helping drive huge interest in plastic pollution. Our roadshow will help further encourage this interest in classrooms and spark curiosity among children about how they can improve sustainability and conservation. All of the sessions have been designed to be hands-on, using a series of props to make them interactive and engaging."

Knowsley Safari's team will be taking part in beach cleans from Sunday, 15 September to Tuesday, 17 September 2019, with the roadshow workshops being delivered in Schools, from Monday, 23 September to Friday, 27 September 2019.  Workshops are designed for Primary School age children, lasting for 1 hour and suitable for classes of up to 30 children. Schools can book one session or multiple workshops for different classes.  Schools interested in booking workshops can email to:- Learning@Knowsley.Com.

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