Influencing a sea-change against plastic pollution in the marine environment

I'm Dr Imogen Napper, a marine scientist at Plymouth and this is my story

2 min read

When I was in primary school we held a charity balloon release. Sixty balloons were released, however, only five got returned and one even made its way to France. 

And this got me thinking, what happened to the other fifty-five balloons, especially if they were dropping into the ocean? 

This sparked my curiosity. This curiosity didn’t disappear.

Recently a particular moment I remember was walking my dog on a beach in Cornwall. It was just after a storm and the beach was covered in plastic. It looked like it was covered in multi-coloured sands, but when you looked closely it was actually tiny plastic pieces.

Imagine marine litter as a big jigsaw puzzle. My research is looking to fill in different parts of this puzzle.

We looked at microbeads in facial scrubs and found that over three million could be in one bottle. 

We also found that up to seven hundred thousand plastic fibres could come off our clothes in a typical clothes wash.

My PhD research has influenced government legislation, banning microbeads in cosmetics.

It has also shown us that plastic is getting into our oceans from ways we have not typically considered.

Making small changes in our own lives can have a big impact in the ocean. Nobody is perfect and it’s a learning curve for all of us. However, we all have a part to play. This includes industry giving us more eco-friendly choices and government enforcing environmental targets.

Plastic is a fantastic material that has many benefits in our lives. However, it’s about how we use it and dispose of it that needs to change. We’re starting to turn the tide and see changes being made.

Dr Imogen Napper
Dr Imogen Napper working in her lab
Plastic found on the beach
Dr Imogen Napper holding in her hands plastic found on a beach
Dr Imogen Napper fieldwork