University of Plymouth gets £200,000 for microplastic research

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The University of Plymouth has received £200,000 of Government funding to launch a new research project that examines the impact of tyres and clothing on marine life.  

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey has pledged the funding to help explore how microplastics from tyres, synthetic materials and fishing gear enter our waterways and oceans.  

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This project will last 11-months and will build on the research already underway. 

Scientists have estimated that tyres contribute 270,000 tonnes of plastics annually, with other studies from the University showing that a single wash of acrylic clothing could release over 700,000 microfibres into the ocean.  

Speaking at the National Oceanographic Association’s annual conference in London, Thérèse Coffey said: “The impact of plastic pollution on our oceans is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our generation. The UK is already leading the way in this area, but we want to go further – and faster. 

“But we can only act where there is robust evidence, and through this exciting project we will build on work underway to better understand how microplastics end up in marine environment and what we can do to tackle this in the future.” 

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The project is being led by the head of international marine litter research unit at the University Professor Richard Thompson OBE, who previously oversaw DEFRA’s first study on impacts of microplastics. 

He said: “The types of microplastics entering the marine environment are incredibly diverse, but recent estimates in Norway and Sweden have suggested that particles of tyre and debris from the road surface could be a substantial source. 

“With very limited real data available to confirm the impact from these sources, there is a genuine and pressing need to establish the true scale of this issue. We will be able to use our findings can to work with the Government, scientists and industry to try to prevent these particles entering the marine environment in the future.” 

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