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14m joint project involving key partners in England and France has launched in a bid to prevent plastic hotspots in the Channel. 

Preventing Plastic Pollution (PPP) will develop a model to gather data on the amount and likely sources of plastic pollution at seven pilot sites: Brest Harbour, Bay of Douarnenez, Bay of VeysPoole Harbour, and the Medway, Tamar, and Great Ouse estuaries.  

The information gathered from research in these areas will allow the cross-Channel partnerships to tackle some of the four million tonnes of plastic waste that enter the sea via rivers every year.  

Using a targeted approach, experts will evaluate plastic pollution entering the catchments and identify pollution hotspots from source to sea. They will assess the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of current and innovative approaches and create a portfolio of removal methods to prevent and manage pollution. 

Dr J Iwan Jones, Head of the River Communities Group at Queen Mary University of London and project lead of Preventing Plastic Pollution, said: 

“Now people are aware of plastic pollution and the damage that it causes, we need to develop a cost-effective strategy to deal with the problem. We’re excited to be leading this strong cross-border partnership, working together to reduce the impact that plastic pollution has on the environment.” 

The €14m project was approved by the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme, which has committed €9.9m in funding through the European Regional Development Fund.  The idea stemmed from a ‘targeted lab’ on plastic pollution organised by the Programme, which brought together experts from across the UK and France on this theme to help them develop partnerships and project ideas. 

Carolyn Reid, Programme Manager of Interreg France (Channel) England, said:

Plastic pollution is a huge environmental problem and we were determined to bring together experts from both sides of the Channel and support them to create projects to combat it. In the future, new removal methods that come from this project could be used beyond the Channel area, so we’re excited that our funding and support for PPP will have a positive impact on protecting biodiversity and ecosystems, and on improving the quality of the water.” 

The project, which will start immediately and run till 2023 will involve 160 river clearance community events and work with agriculture and fishing/maritime industries on ways to capture and remove plastic waste from their activities.  

There are 18 partners involved in total, including Queen Mary University of London, The Rivers Trust, Environment Agency, Plymouth City Council, University of Plymouth, Office Français De La BiodiversitéBrest Métropole, Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

 Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive at The Rivers Trust, said:

“Plastic not only pollutes our rivers, but it also gets washed out to sea where it contributes to the global plastic pollution crisis.  By looking at the river catchment as a whole, we can start to understand the sources, hotspots and pathways related to plastic pollution and take action to address them.  Our local Rivers Trusts and Catchment Partnerships throughout the eligible area will be calling on volunteers and citizen scientists to help them with this project.  We really want local communities to get involved in this ground-breaking partnership project and The Rivers Trust website will give details shortly on how people can get involved.”  

Emma Howard-Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, added:

“Plastic pollution is a growing threat to our natural environment. Reducing the amount entering the river network will help protect wildlife for future generations. 

Our teams will work across the south coast, with the project partners, to increase the Environment Agency’s understanding of plastics in the environment and test innovative approaches to help businesses, communities and young people reduce their use of avoidable plastics.”  

The project, which is led by Queen Mary University of London, will run until March 2023. 

The full list of partners involved are:  

  • Queen Mary University of London 
  • LABOCEA Conseil, Expertise et Analyses 
  • Syndicat mixte établissement public de gestion et d’aménagement de la baie de Douarnenez 
  • Office Français dlBiodiversitéParc naturel marin d’Iroise 
  • Brest Métropole  
  • Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 
  • Counseil Départemental de la Manche 
  • Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer 
  • Environment Agency 
  • The Rivers Trust 
  • Syndicat de bassin de l’Elorn 
  • Brest’aim 
  • Westcountry Rivers Trust 
  • South East Rivers Trust 
  • Plymouth City Council 
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 
  • University of Plymouth