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Help to snap and map a million pieces of plastic – one for every marine creature killed each year by plastic pollution
Lizzie Carr, photo Andy Hargraves

Today (15 April), Plastic Patrol is launching #oneforone – a campaign asking people to ‘snap and map’ pollution using the Plastic Patrol app. The goal is to log one million pieces of plastic waste – one for every marine creature killed each year by plastic pollution.

The environmental non-profit is calling on the British public to join its mission and fight for a future that isn’t threatened by plastic. The aim is to unite communities across the country, asking them to take part in the largest ever citizen science survey to help eradicate plastic pollution.

The small act of photographing plastic waste where it doesn’t belong and uploading to the Plastic Patrol app will help map pollution hotspots and inform community clean-ups. It will also provide vital new data about the location, type, volume and distribution of plastic in and around UK waterways, and identify the manufacturers responsible.

Power in our pockets

Plastic Patrol was founded by eco activist and world record holder Lizzie Carr, who became the first person to paddle board the length of England’s waterways. In 2016 she undertook the 400-mile journey solo and unsupported – logging more than 2,000 pieces of plastic on an interactive map (which she later coined Plastic Patrol) to show that 80% of marine debris, including plastic, starts from inland sources.

This year, Lizzie is urging the public to join forces in the #oneforone citizen science initiative, demonstrating how small digital acts can add up to huge global change. The ultimate goal is to log one million pieces of plastic in the UK via the app– one for every marine creature killed each year from plastic pollution.

‘We all have the ability to make a difference. From everyday consumer choices, to the decisions we make to help a cause we believe in. The power of our individual actions should not be underestimated. Together we can accelerate global change, we literally have the power in our pockets. Using accessible, mobile technology as a force for good with the touch of a button. From parks and paths to mountains and rivers – this is about logging data wherever we find it to gather robust, scientific and undeniable evidence – that puts accountability back in the hands of those culpable.’

Eco activist and World Record holder

Identifying plastic pollution hotspots

Partner scientists from University of Nottingham will review and analyse the data to identify hotspots around the UK and mobilise clean-ups. Insights gathered by the general public will create vital evidence to inform public policy around smarter and more circular packaging solutions as well as more responsible manufacturing behaviour.

With hotspots of the most polluted parts of Britain identified, and a particular focus on waterways, Plastic Patrol will deploy its army of volunteers to join Lizzie Carr as she leads a series of paddle boarding clean-up sessions across the UK this summer. They will include additional wellbeing activities like yoga, kayaking, wild swimming and running.

The events will be bolstered by volunteer Plastic Patrol reps around the UK running their own clean-up initiatives, helping to increase the breadth of reach, reinforce numbers and collect even more data.

‘Plastic Patrol’s platform offers an incredible opportunity to better understand the distribution and diversity of the litter that is present in the UK’s inland waterbodies. The data collected has the potential to identify the most appropriate strategies to mitigate plastic pollution from local to national scales. By identifying each item of litter to type and, where possible brand, this initiative will produce one of the most comprehensive databases of litter available to the public, to policy, and to industry. Not only will this be invaluable to an increasingly environmentally aware society, but it could also inform industries of the fate of the disposable products they produce at a scale that cannot be ignored.’

PhD Researcher, University of Nottingham

Writing a different ending

The Plastic Patrol app was launched in 2016 and currently holds the largest recorded bank of plastic data for the UK inland waterways. I Currently the Plastic Patrol map contains more than 100,000 examples of plastic waste from 37 countries globally – but more is needed.

A staggering 80% of marine debris starts from inland sources; the River Thames alone carries 18 tonnes of plastic pollution into the ocean every single year. Last year, scientists revealed shocking levels of plastic pollution in the River Tame in Manchester – up to half a million particles per square metre.

‘Every piece of single-use plastic removed is a victory’, says Lizzie, ‘but it’s not enough without logging it as evidence. We need to break the cycle. Plastic production is set to double in the next 20 years, so we have to strike now to stop the flow of pollution at the source. Plastic Patrol uses cutting-edge technology to drive evidence-based change through community activism. This is grassroots campaigning on an epic scale. If enough communities are mobilised on the ground, these small acts can build to change the legacy we leave behind for the next generation. Together we can write a different ending.’

Click here to download the Plastic Patrol app.

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