Our reliance on plastics in textiles and packaging across industries makes life without plastics unthinkable.

At the International Marine Litter Research Unit, we believe that society can benefit from plastics in a way that greatly reduces environmental impact.

The dramatic increase of plastic waste in managed systems and the natural environment – especially the ocean – has triggered widespread demand for change among the public, policy-makers and industry.

We aim to meet the demand and facilitate collaborative opportunities for businesses, funding agencies and policy-makers to inform and shape solutions for textiles and packaging to reduce the impact of plastic waste to the environment.

What do we provide?

  • Consultancy – reviewing and advising on products, services and processes
  • Product testing and analysis 
  • Industrially or publicly funded collaboration
  • Research and development support
  • Access to cutting-edge facilities
  • Access to wider University business support such as funded opportunities and networks

Collaborate with us

To find out more about how we can support you, please contact Kevin Forshaw, Director of Industrial and Strategic Partnerships (Faculty of Science and Engineering) or Dr Winnie Courtene-Jones, Research Fellow (International Marine Litter Research Unit).


Custom-built cleanroom facility

This restricted access, three-tiered controlled environment boasts positive pressure airflow, filtered down to 0.5µm. This allows sensitive analysis to be undertaken in an environment subject to minimal contamination, maintaining the integrity of the samples and products being analysed.

The laboratory itself is well equipped with the apparatus and instruments necessary to sample, identify, and quantify plastics such as vacuum filtration units, a laminar flow hood, and microscopes. There are also a number of other instruments at the university accessible to us when required including ICPMS (Inductively coupled plasms mass spectrometry) and XRF (X-ray fluorescence).

Pressure guage
Working in the Marine Litter Unit clean room

Fully automated FTIR
(Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy)

An instrument vital in polymer identification, allowing for rapid sample assessment. It additionally logs images of each sample, so individual fragments and fibres can be referred to retrospectively.

Academics from collaborating scientific institutions have previously enabled access to a greater array of specialist instruments including GCMS (pyrolysis gas chromatography mass spectrometry), and Raman spectroscopy.

International Marine Litter Research Unit facilities
International Marine Litter Research Unit facilities
Marine Litter Unit

Textile Emission Laboratory

A specialist lab space dedicated to researching the contribution of textiles microfibre emissions, leading research on factors such as weave, material type, and laundering conditions can influence fibre shedding from textiles, undertaken in domestic washing machines. We are also able to assess the effectiveness of different mechanisms designed to capture synthetic fibres during laundering reducing their release in effluent.

We have tested products already on the market, and products in earlier stages of their development providing evidence as to their performance and informing product design.

Textile Emission Laboratory Facilities
Textile Emission Laboratory facilities
Some of the Marine Litter Unit researchers

Plymouth's Plan for Plastics

The University of Plymouth has partnered with Plymouth City Council along with a range of public, private and voluntary sector organisations to have maximum impact on reducing plastic through the Britain’s Ocean City: Plastics Task Force. The task force seeks to understand and reduce the impacts of plastic pollution in the marine environment.

The Britain’s Ocean City: Plymouth's Plan for Plastics details a broader commitment as a city to reducing single use plastics in Plymouth. It is one of Plymouth City Council’s pledges, along with trialling the use of a new sea-bin to collect plastics and other solid materials directly from the sea. The plan also includes a Plastics Code of Conduct which helps businesses, community organisations and individuals cut down on single use plastics.

Find out more about Plymouth's Plan for Plastics