We had an overwhelming response to our request for divers to collect sediment and water samples this year for micro plastics research.
In total 1079 microplastic pieces were found in the samples sent back. Of the 1079 microplastics, 282 were found in the water column samples and the remaining 797 were from sediment samples. The primary microplastic type was particles with over 870 counts, and fibres made up just over 200 counts.
The samples were analysed to correlate them with the:
- Proximity to a wastewater treatment facility;
- Proximity to a town/village/city/population;
- Depth at which a sample was taken; and
- Direction of the current compared with the plastic counts.
The analysis showed that the proximity to both a wastewater facility and a town, and the depth had a significant influence on the plastic count. This is thought to be due to wastewater treatment facilities being unable to remove all microplastics from their discharged effluent. There are very few if any jurisdictions that place limits on the amount of microplastics allowed to enter the water system. Litter on coastlines and coastal towns are also a factor in the plastic counts distance to a town.
Microplastics were found in every sample except one – the SS Betsy Anna water column sample – suggesting that microplastics are absolutely ubiquitous in UK waters.
These results have been added to the 2021 data to build a bigger picture. We are planning next years’ collection campaign at the moment and will be changing the approach slightly – so watch this space for some new opportunities.