€14m project to tackle plastic pollution hotspots

The Channel area will be the focus of a three-year project to remove and prevent plastic pollution at hotspots in the UK and France. Preventing Plastic Pollution (PPP) will develop a model to gather data on the amount and likely sources of plastic pollution at seven pilot sites: Brest Harbour, Douarnenez Bay, Bay of Veys, Medway, Tamar, Great Ouse & Poole Harbour.

Experts will evaluate plastic pollution entering the catchments and identify pollution hotspots. They will assess the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of current and innovative approaches and create a portfolio of removal methods to prevent and manage pollution.

Ifremer is one of the 17 partners in this project. Its Normandy Environment and Resources Laboratory will monitor microplastics in the Baie des Veys and assess the impact of the actions carried out there. The Invertebrate Physiology Laboratory, in partnership with the CNRS within LEMAR, will work on the toxicity of microplastics on marine organisms, particularly on oysters.

In addition to the scientific approach of these two laboratories, a "Corporate Social Responsibility" section led by the Ifremer manager will promote exemplary behaviour among employees, in particular the drastic reduction of plastics in offices and daily use.

The €14m project was approved by the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme, which has committed €9.9m in funding through the European Regional Development Fund.  The idea stemmed from a ‘targeted lab’ on plastic pollution organised by the Programme, which brought together experts from across the UK and France on this theme to help them develop partnerships and project ideas.

The project falls within the funding category ‘Coastal and Transitional Water Ecosystems’ of the Programme, whose Managing Authority is Norfolk County Council and which co-funds collaborative projects between organisations in the south of the UK and north of France.

Managing plastic pollution is difficult, piecemeal and costly, and the partnership will tackle some of the four million tonnes of plastic waste that enter the sea via rivers every year.

Carolyn Reid, Programme Manager of Interreg France (Channel) England, said: “Plastic pollution is a huge environmental problem and we were determined to bring together experts from both sides of the Channel and support them to create projects to combat it.

In the future, new removal methods that come from this project could be used even beyond the Channel area, so we’re excited that our funding and support for PPP will have a positive impact on protecting biodiversity and ecosystems, and on improving the quality of the water.”

"This project is a great opportunity to bring together stakeholders, employees, decision-makers and scientists with the common goal of significantly reducing plastic pollution and measuring its effects on the coastal zone," says Arnaud Huvet, in charge of Ifremer's partnership.

The project, which is led by Queen Mary University of London, is being launched immediately and will run until March 2023.

PPP will also hold 160 river clearance community events, and work with agriculture, fishing and maritime industries on ways to capture and remove plastic waste from their activities.