Two decades of research
Working for the past two decades on marine and freshwater projects in the UK, Europe and around the world, the International Marine Litter Research Unit has developed a detailed understanding of the environmental and societal impacts of plastic marine litter.
The global outlook of the team’s research has seen them test numerous interventions with industry partners aimed at identifying the solutions to this worldwide problem. They have published 134 papers on microplastics alone, and their work has influenced both national and international legislation.
Professor Richard Thompson OBE FRS and his team were the first to show that microplastic particles have accumulated in oceans since the 1960s and are now globally present in our seas.
Their work has shown that microplastic debris is now found in substantial quantities in remote locations such as the deep sea and the Arctic and that they are damaging to a range of marine organisms who ingest these pieces.
Evidence to inform solutions in policy and industry
The team’s work has influenced policy worldwide and has advised governments and international organisations across the globe. They continue to provide the evidence that will underpin the most appropriate solutions to the problem of marine plastic pollution.
Evidence provided to UK Parliament in 2015 informed the tax on single use plastic bags.
In 2015, the team's evidence to Defra and the UK Parliament led directly to the 2018 ban on the use of microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics. Many other countries around the world have followed with similar policy actions.
- Our 2020 evidence on the release of textile fibres during laundering has led to industrial innovation to introduce plastic microfibre capturing filters on washing machines. This has resulted in the implementation of these filters on all new machines in France from 2025 and has added pressure to introduce this legislation across Europe.
Contributed to the UN Environment Agency report in 2022 which informed discussions on a new global plastics treaty.
- The team's 2022
evidence on potential challenges with mechanical cleaning deviceswill inform local authorities and others managing water bodies.
Marine Litter: are there solutions to this global environmental problem?
The University's Marine Institute research into marine plastics and their impact on the environment, over almost two decades, has resulted in numerous research findings of major importance, influencing national and international legislation. As well as demonstrating the impacts, the focus of the International Marine Litter Research Unit has progressively shifted towards solutions orientated approaches.
brochure delves into more specific details of the world-leading research that our team continue to progress.
International Marine Litter Research news
- Microparticles from road tyres are “high concern” pollutants, research shows 29 January 2024
- 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
- Student’s design to combat fishing nets stranded on our beaches 18 October 2023
- Pioneering microplastics researcher receives the 2023 Blue Planet Prize 4 October 2023