British river has worst recorded microplastic pollution in the world, study finds

British river has the worst microplastic pollution in the world, researchers have found, with levels even greater than hugely built-up areas such as in South Korea and Hong Kong.

Geographers at The University of Manchester are calling for tighter regulations to prevent plastic entering waterways after finding ‘extraordinarily’ high concentrations in north west England.

The team examined river sediments from 40 sites across Greater Manchester including urban rivers and rural streams. They found microplastic everywhere even in the remote parts of Saddleworth Moor in the South Pennines.

But the River Tame at Denton was found to have the highest levels of microplastics recorded anywhere in the world, at 517,000 particles per m2. The level was far higher than at the Incheon-Kyeonggi beaches in South Korea or the Pearl River Estuary in Hong Kong.

Jamie Woodward, Professor of Physical Geography at the Department of Geography, said the results were likely to be the tip of the iceberg and called for the Environment Agency to start monitoring microplastic levels in Britain’s rivers.

“If you had done the work in the West Midlands or South East England I am sure you would have got similar results,” he said.

“We’re shining a light on a huge problem that, until now, has been under the radar. We found microplastics everywhere, even in streams high in the hills. Wherever you find people you find plastic.

“We found we had the worst levels in the world, some of which were extraordinarily high. The River Tame is a global hotspot for microplastics.

“Ultimately we need to get better at managing wastewater, and the Environment Agency urgently needs to look at Britain’s rivers and see what the extent of microplastics is in the UK.”

The team believe the microplastics arefinding theirway into rivers from a combination of industrial effluent and domestic wastewater.

It has been shown that a single polyester fleece jacket can release more than 1900 plastic fibres per wash while, until they were banned in January, plastic microbeads were common in toothpastes, shampoos and shower gels.

A larval perch with microplastic particles in its gut

A larval perch with microplastic particles in its gutCREDIT:REUTERS

The test were carried out in 2015, and the team also found that around 70 per cent of the microplastics were washed away into the sea following the devastating 2015/2016 floods.

“While that is good for the river beds, because we now know they can effectively cleanse themselves, it is bad news for the oceans,” added Professor Woodward.

“Microplastics in the ocean have recently attracted a lot of attention, but until now science knew little about the major sources of this pollution and the transport processes involved.

“We are only beginning to understand the extent of the microplastic contamination problem in the world’s rivers. To tackle the problem in the oceans, we have to prevent microplastics entering river channels.”

The researchers estimate that the flooding flushed around 43 billion microplastic particles from the River Mersey and Irwell catchments, and into the Irish Sea.

Arecent global estimate put the input of plastic into the oceans at approximately 6.4 million tons per annum.

Much of the plastic floats rather than sinks, so it is swallowed by marine animals who cannot digest it. Chemicals also leach into the water, and it has been shown that even humans who eat seafood ingest 11,000 pieces of microplastic each year.

Although it was believed that 90 per cent of microplastic contamination originated from the land - the rest coming from shipping accidents - the new study is the first to look in depth at where the source may be.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said:“We are working with the water industry and leading academics to investigate the types and quantities of microplastics entering the environment. This research will feed into plans to tackle this type of pollution at the source.

“Plastic pollution is a threat to our natural environment and by working together, we can reduce the amount which enters our land, rivers and the sea and protect wildlife for future generations.”

Read more news of London on our site.
Environment HongKong Flooding UniversityofManchester GreaterManchester Animals Pollution Oceans Manchester EnvironmentAgency
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
3 views in september
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Comments are designed to communicate and discuss the features of an enterprise or event, as well as to find out the interesting questions on it.

Homeowners whose properties were devastated by the Christmas flooding of 2013 may feel a little safer at the news their town is set for a new £15 million barrier thanks to the latest round of funding. Flood defences for Tonbridge and the surrounding area are to be improved following a decision to award more than £2 million of government cash. It will go towards improvements to the Leigh Flood Storage area and local embankments in the Hildenborough area. Th...
The Government is to crack down on people smugglers advertising their services to people in developing countries via Facebook in a bid to stem the flow of undocumented migrants to the UK at its source. The UK has identified 539 social media pages – the vast majority on Facebook – which it says are used by people illegally offering others transit to Europe - writes “We must now match our pursuit of people smugglers and traffickers with a r...
A schoolboy died from the effects of a suspected allergic reaction after allegedly being chased and having cheese thrown down his T-shirt, an inquest heard today. Karanbir Cheema, 13, was “gasping for air” when emergency crews arrived at William Perkin CofE High School in Greenford . Kieran Oppatt, the first paramedic to arrive at the scene on June 28 last year, today told St Pancras coroner’s court that the unconscious teenager’s condition deteriorated dr...
Around 120 people were affected by a flood in West Drayton when a burst water main filled a residential street. The road, Falling Lane, was covered in a metre of water in an incident which prompted six fire engines and 40 firefighters into action on Sunday. Some 80 properties were impacted, some of which were evacuated . In an update, a spokesperson for the London Fire Brigade , which was called at 8.39pm, said: “Firefighters used sand bags and pumped wate...
Council sidestepped a loaded decision about ending city hall regulation of the number of taxi licences in London, punting the controversial proposal back to staff on Tuesday night. The direction to city staff? Talk to the taxi industry. Again. It’s the latest chapter in the never-ending saga over London’s bylaw governing taxis, limousines and private ride-hailing companies like Uber. VEHICLE FOR HIRE BYLAW Staff will bring a bylaw back to the community and...
A dog owner claims her pet was kicked to death by a teenager in a “disgusting” attack at an east London park. Pomeranian puppy Scout was set upon by thugs while being walked in Raphael Park in Romford , owner Samantha Winfield said - writes She has launched a Facebook campaign to track down the culprit and police are investigating the incident, which happened at about 3pm on Sunday. “My partner walked my two Pomeranian puppies in Raphael Par...
A teenage girl was raped in broad daylight in an east London park, police have said. The Met's child abuse and sexual offences command is investigating the attack, which happened in West Ham Park on Tuesday. The female victim was attacked by a man close to the entrance opposite FairlandRoad, Scotland Yard said. It happened at about 4pm. No arrests have yet been made. West Ham Park, which dates back to the 16th century,is run by the City of London Corporati...
Armed police would have needed “luck” to be in the right place to tackle an intruder at Parliament, the Westminster terror attack inquest heard today. Khalid Masood, 52, rushed into the Parliamentary grounds and stabbed Pc Keith Palmer to death having mown down and killed four pedestrians with his car on Westminster Bridge. The inquest has heard armed police patrolling Parliament had been in-structed to prioritise the safety of ministers and MPs over polic...
A car thief who was filmed deliberately driving at a group of cyclists has admitted a string of offences. Shane Seymour, 25, of Southwark, south London, drove at the cyclists on Clapham Road, Clapham, during the morning rush hour of 1 August. Footage on social media showed a black Audi with fake number plates repeatedly accelerating towards the cyclists. Seymour pleaded guilty to the theft of a car, driving while disqualified and dangerous driving. He appe...