We have known for some time that rivers are key pathways for the transfer of microplastics to marine environments. However, there has always been uncertainty about the sheer amounts being transported, and whether they represent long-term sinks. This study goes some way to unravelling that mystery, and revealing the true scale of microplastic contamination that our river systems can represent.
Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth and National Geographic Explorer
Earlier studies based on modelling had reported rivers in Asia as one of the largest sources of microplastic pollution to sea. This research based on primary field data has provided clear insight on the levels of microplastics in different environmental matrices of river Ganges and that several major river systems of the world have reported comparatively higher microplastics than the Ganges. This study could be used to further mature the theory on major sinks and sources of microplastics in major river systems of the world.
This research is ground breaking and we need to make the findings understandable for the key stakeholders, including policy makers. This research provides a platform for global scientists and we have developed a collaborative research group who have been working hard to implement innovative solutions locally for Bangladesh.
Our research shows that clothing is the major source of microplastics in the air, water and sediment of this vast river system, enabling us to work with partners and policy makers to seek locally appropriate solutions. These can be informed and supported by the brilliant scientists from Bangladesh and India who were key members of the team involved in this paper.
- The full study – Napper et al: The Distribution and Characterisation of Microplastics in Air, Surface Water and Sediment within a Major River System – is published in Science of the Total Environment, DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.166640.
International Marine Litter Research Unit
Marine litter is a global environmental problem with items of debris now contaminating habitats from the poles to the equator, from the sea surface to the deep sea.
Marine news from the University of Plymouth
- University of Plymouth experts at COP28 1 December 2023
- Study highlights vulnerability of England’s only resident bottlenose dolphins 29 November 2023
- Study reveals how UK’s shipwrecks are providing a refuge for marine life 22 November 2023
- Turning waste wood into nutritious seafood 20 November 2023
- University scientists join world leaders at global plastic pollution negotiations 14 November 2023
- Scientists caution against a reliance on mechanical devices to clear water bodies of plastic 9 November 2023