It has certainly been an unusual year to make a start on our Preventing Plastic Pollution (PPP) project.
But not detered by our new ways of working, our PPP team began by mapping the potential sources of where plastic (micro and macro) could get into the Tamar catchment waterways.
These included sewage treatment outfalls, roads, urban areas, land use and equestrian centers, to name but a few.
Lydia Deacon, one of our PPP Tamar project officers said: “By mapping these out, we could start to build a picture of potential hotspots of plastic and use the map to identify where to focus our clean up and intervention efforts.
“The mapping is an ever-changing process, and, as the project progresses, we will use our experiences out in the field to evolve the map into its most true picture of plastic hotspots.”
The team’s first foray out in the field was in July 2020 on the River Deer (around Chilsworthy and Holsworthy). They had already identified potential hotspots due to roads crossing rivers, outfalls, residential areas and publicly accessible areas next to the river.
Although Chilsworthy is a rural village, it was clear there was excessive litter in the few laybys. This followed at the Holsworthy sites.
These initial findings have led to Flo (from our partners at Plymouth University) looking into whether there is a scientific correlation between higher levels of litter and laybys.
Since the first trip out, the team has now sampled in Launceston, Tavistock and a few sites on Dartmoor as well as supporting Plymouth University with micro-sampling at seven different locations and layby sampling at five different sites.
“We have found areas of excessive litter build-up and identified where simple interventions could make a noticeable difference to how much litter enters the Tamar and its tributaries,” Lydia said.
“We have also come across areas where litter is sparce and active community groups are out regularly cleaning their natural environments, which is fantastic to see and very motivating.”
The data being collected is added to an online system, used by all partners, and will be key to how work is progressed through events such as community cleans, interventions and prevention work.
It also helps to validate the mapping and modelling work, which in the future can be used to assess different catchments’ sources of plastic waste and in turn help prevent it from entering our rivers and then our seas.
“Looking to 2021, we are excited to get out and about in the catchment once more and we will be running community litter pick events,” concluded Lydia.
We would love your help to clean up your local areas and prevent plastic from entering the waterways – keep an eye on our events section where we will be adding details early in the New Year.
All of our work is done under strict COVID working practices – this means our plans may need to change at short notice.