UK Rivers Heavily Contaminated With Microplastics


Researchers from The University of Manchester are calling for tighter regulations on waste flowing into urban waterways, after the first study of its kind found that microplastics from urban river channels are a major contributor to the pollution problem in the oceans.

Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic debris including microbeads, microfibres and plastic fragments which enter river systems from multiple sources including industrial effluent, storm water drains and domestic wastewater.

These particles pollute the environment and pose a threat to ecosystem health. Although around 90% of microplastic contamination in the oceans is thought to originate from land, not much is known about their storage and movements in river basins.

In the first detailed catchment-wide study anywhere in the world, Rachel Hurley, Jamie Woodward and James Rothwell from the Department of Geography at The University of Manchester examined the microplastics in river sediments from 40 sites across Greater Manchester, including rural streams in the hills and urban rivers in the city centre.

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