Plastic Pirates Data Collection Project

Updating our previous posts on the issue of pollution in our oceans and waterways, German and British kids are currently engaged in a project to collect data about plastic waste in our rivers.

Rivers, it goes without saying, flow into the sea and along with them all the plastic waste that they contain. While some plastic waste is deposited directly in our oceans, much of it is delivered by rivers and streams. This pollution comes in the form of both macroplastics (such as torn plastic bags, sharp-edged yoghurt pots or tangled plastic string) and microplastics (that is, microparticles which are generally too small to see or touch). As we’ve mentioned before, both forms of plastic waste represent a huge risk to animals in the ocean as well as the food chain.

Here are some of our earlier posts on this theme: Seas without Plastic; The Future of the Oceans; “The seas and oceans are a source of food…

More data on plastic litter in the world’s oceans is becoming available for researchers, but there are still many waterways in Germany where there is inadequate or no data about plastic waste. “Plastic Pirates” is a citizen science campaign which aims to help fill in these gaps. Young people aged between 10 and 16 from Germany and Britain are currently taking part in the campaign.

The project collects data for science, such as how much and what types of plastic litter can be found? Where are particularly large amounts of waste piling up? What role do the dynamics of the waterways play? The “Plastic Pirates” will use scientific methods to filter, weigh, count and document the results on a digital map of Germany.

The data will then be processed by the Kiel Research Workshop (Kieler Forschungswerkstatt), where researchers will draw conclusions about which river sections are especially polluted with plastics and how pollution builds along the river course. The aim is to develop protective measures that will help protect rivers, our oceans and ultimately us.

The project is also a German-British cooperation with British students being invited to Germany during the period of the project. The United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany have cooperated on marine research for many years, and the UK is Germany’s partner country in Science Year 2016*17, in which our two countries are working to jointly explore, use and protect the seas and oceans.

Photo credit: http://www.colourbox.com. Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from Wissenschaftsjahr 2016-17.

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