Campaigning swimmer is gearing up to investigate microplastics in the waterways of UK national parks

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 4 March 2020

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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Following the discovery of microplastics at the top of Snowdon, a scientific expedition has been launched to investigate plastic pollution in all the UK’s national parks.

An outdoor swimmer, a scientist and an environmental organisation have teamed up to visit some of the country’s most iconic locations and test the water for the presence of tiny pieces of plastic.

Snowdon microplastics

The expedition will see campaigner Laura Sanderson swim nearly 1,000km through all 15 of the UK’s national parks to collect hundreds of water samples, which will be analysed at Bangor University in North Wales.

Laura was inspired to organise the challenge after an initial swim she undertook last year found tiny pieces of plastic – or microplastics – in Llyn Glaslyn, at the very top of Snowdon: England and Wales’ highest mountain.

‘Last year we swam 26km from a lake at the top of Snowdon down the river system all the way to the coast. We were horrified when we were told the water we’d collected along the way had microplastics in them. So now we want to see just how widespread the problem is and look at waterways in all our national parks. I’m hoping to start this March and so I’m training pretty much every day.’

LAURA SANDERSON
Campaigning swimmer, We Swim Wild

Microplastics in waterways

Dr Christian Dunn, a senior lecturer at Bangor University, said: ‘We found water from Lllyn Glaslyn had an average of three pieces of microplastic per litre – although this is a small amount it’s worrying because it’s at the very top of a mountain.’

‘Concentrations of these microplastics then increased steadily as Laura swam downstream towards the coast. The sort of data we’ll get from this expedition is essential; as we need to learn all we can about microplastics in our waterways if we are to have any hope of tackling the problem’, he added.

The environmental organisation Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is partnering with Laura and Christian – who are both local representatives for the charity – for the challenge.

‘Because Laura is swimming through the rivers, lakes and coastline of the national parks it gives us a unique opportunity to collect water samples from places that we’d struggle to reach any other way. Several of us from SAS will be helping with the analysis and joining Laura along the way, though she’s the only one prepared to swim the full 980 kilometres – so good luck to her!’

HUGO TAGHOLM
SAS CEO

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