Greenpeace calls for plastic reduction law after finding UK rivers contaminated

June 23, 2019

Greenpeace has urged the government to set legally-binding plastic reduction targets in the upcoming Environment Bill after a study released last week revealed every one of 13 UK rivers tested was  contaminated with microplastics.


Greenpeace scientists at the University of Exeter tested rivers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Island: the Exe, Thames, Severn, Great Ouse Trent, Mersey, Aire, Derwent, Wear, Conwy, Wye, Clyde and Lagan. They found: 

  • all 13 UK rivers tested contained microplastics;

  • five out of 13 rivers contained microbeads – which were partially banned in 2017;

  • 1,271 pieces of plastic, ranging in size from straw and bottle-top fragments to microbeads less than 1mm across;

  • more than half the rivers tested contained plastic pellets called "nurdles", which are used as a raw material in the production of plastic products.

The report findings were presented on 19 June at a parliamentary event, where wildlife expert and TV presenter, Steve Backshall, urged MPs to sign up in support of plastic reduction targets. Greenpeace said 90 MPs had already pledged support. 

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