Main menu

New citizen science projects announced to prevent plastic pollution on English rivers

The Rivers Trust has enlisted the help of local groups and NGO’s to help us remove plastic waste and survey plastic pollution across multiple river catchments in England. By engaging local groups to train volunteers to use the PPP methodology and surveys, we hope to build a broad picture of plastic pollution in river catchments, and to empower and enable local action on the ground to prevent plastic pollution, from source to sea. All the data gathered will contribute to our international effort to slow the flow of plastic waste entering the Channel Sea via our rivers.


The Ouse & Adur River Trust – a conservation effort for the community by the community. Citizen scientists will carry out up to 60 litter surveys within different areas of the catchment – including six major urban areas. Volunteers will be trained to use the different tiers of PPP surveys, helping us quantify and identify the types of plastic we find in along these rivers. The project will engage many different communities – from existing Trust volunteers to businesses, as well as recreational river users. Training of citizen scientists to use the PPP surveys will accurately highlight the problems of plastic waste for the Adur and Ouse and, crucially, enable more targeted efforts to prevent plastic pollution locally.

The Darent & Cray Catchment Partnership, project will target the issue of plastic pollution on the Upper and Lower Darent, the river Cray, the River Shuttle and the Danson Stream and Lake. Accurately recording what and where plastics are found will give a better understanding of the types of plastic pollution affecting each waterbody and help identify the potential sources of this pollution. The data collected will enable focused schemes and to pinpoint the most effective places to prevent plastic from entering the waterways. The result? Cleaner, healthier rivers.

The Essex & Suffolk Rivers Trust (ESRT) will run clean-up events on the Deben Estuary and the River Gipping. The ESRT team, with assistance from partners, will collect and identify the plastics using PPP’s methodology and contribute to our growing database, allowing everyone involved to gain a better understanding of the potential sources and pathways of the plastics entering the local environment. The data will be used to help inform local government, industries, and the wider community on the most appropriate measures to reduce waste plastic in the local environment. The ESRT, with the River Deben Association, River Gipping Trust and the Pickerel Project, and all their fantastic volunteers want to see healthy plastic free rivers fit for people and wildlife.

The Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership (KSCP) will lean on their superb ‘Our Stour’ volunteers to run litter picks and PPP surveys, removing and analysing litter in known litter hotspots of large urban areas: Ashford and Canterbury. ‘Our Stour’ volunteers will also target locations downstream of these urban areas where litter is often swept and deposited on banks or on flood plains. As well as up to 13 litter picks and surveys, KSCP will engage with schools and community groups to join 4 ‘community cleans’ highlighting the impacts of plastic pollution on the river and ‘Our Stour’ activities.

The Medway Swale Estuary Partnership (MSEP) aims to address the issue of plastic pollution impacting the Thames and Medway estuaries (both Marine Conservation Zones and Special Protection Areas), nearby Sites of Scientific Special Interest (SSSI) and the England Coast Path. The MSEP working in partnership with local organisations and communities, will run a series of clean-up activities at litter hotspots along the coastline, which are also important areas for wildlife (including harbour and grey seals). It is vital to remove as much material as possible, to reduce the risk of ingestion or animals being trapped by plastic waste. PPP surveys will be key to preventing more plastic entering into the environment and will help MSEP with their aim for a healthier and cleaner local environment for wildlife and people.

The River Waveney Trust and the local community will assess and remove litter along stretches of the Waveney, raising awareness of the issue of plastic waste and other pollutants in the area. This will give participants new skills, lead to greater awareness of RWT’s work, and connect them more closely with the Waveney, strengthening the entire community’s ‘ownership’ of the health of their local blue space.  There are plans for at least 20 litter picking events which will involve local schools and businesses, and the Broads Catchment Partnership.

Strandliners are a Community Interest Company (CIC), based in Sussex, who will run PPP surveys on the river Rother. Citizen scientists will be trained to use the PPP methodology and surveys to create a data-rich picture of plastic pollution within the areas of the Rother catchment, identifying the sources of plastic waste, and act to reduce the amount of plastic entering the river. This project will bring together all river users, including canoe and anglings clubs, local businesses, community groups,  and the Rother & Romney Catchment Partnership to bring about a positive impact on the local natural environment.