Quantcast

Top 10 Single-Use Plastics Clogging European Rivers

Oceans
Litter washed up by the tide of London's Thames River. Anthony John West / Getty Images

Most of the 8 million tons of plastic that enter the world's oceans each year flows from rivers, but fewer studies have been done looking at plastic pollution in freshwater environments. The Plastic Rivers report released Monday by the EarthWatch Institute and Plastic Oceans UK Monday looks to correct that knowledge gap and help consumers understand the best actions they can take to keep plastic out of the world's waterways.

The report reviewed nine studies of pollution in European and UK rivers and lakes to find the top 10 single-use plastic items. Of the 193,238 items turned up in the studies, 37.5 percent were plastic items normally used by consumers. The rest of the litter was related to agriculture, fishing or industry.


The top 10 list accounted for 28.2 percent of all the litter in the studies. The two organizations then compared environmental evidence and the life cycle of each item to advise concerned users on how best to prevent more of them from ending up in rivers and, eventually, oceans.

The list is as follows:

1. Plastic Bottles

Percentage of Total Plastic Litter Found: 14 Percent

Recommended Action: Use Reusable Bottles

2. Food Wrappers

Percentage of Total Plastic Litter Found: 12 Percent

Recommended Action: Dispose of Them Properly

3. Cigarette Butts

Percentage of Total Plastic Litter Found: 9 Percent

Recommended Action: Dispose of Them Properly

4. To-Go Containers

Percentage of Total Plastic Litter Found: 6 Percent

Recommended Action: Use Reusable Containers for Take-Out

5. Cotton Bud Sticks

Percentage of Total Plastic Litter Found: 5 Percent

Recommended Action: Use Buds With Paper Sticks Instead

6. Cups

Percentage of Total Plastic Litter Found: 4 Percent

Recommended Action: Use Reusable Cups

7. Sanitary Items

Percentage of Total Plastic Litter Found: 3 Percent

Recommended Action: Do Not Flush Pads, Tampons or Wet Wipes

8. Cigarette Packaging

Percentage of Total Plastic Litter Found: 2 Percent

Recommended Action: Dispose of It Properly

9. Plastic Straws, Stirrers and Cutlery

Percentage of Total Plastic Litter Found: 1 Percent

Recommended Action: Use Reusable Silverware and Straws

10. Plastic Bags

Percentage of Total Plastic Litter Found: 1 Percent

Recommended Action: Use Reusable Bags

The low placement of plastic bags indicated that efforts in the UK and Europe to reduce their use through fees and other measures has paid off, The Guardian reported. However, the report also shows the persistence of other plastic items in daily life.

"The products we buy every day are contributing to the problem of ocean plastic," Plastic Oceans UK Chief Executive Jo Ruxton told The Guardian. "Our discarded plastic enters rivers from litter generated by our on-the-go lifestyle and items we flush down toilets. This throwaway approach is having much more serious consequences and the report shows really simple ways to avoid this problem and stop plastic pollution."

The report comes a little more than a week after the EU Parliament agreed to ban the most harmful single use plastics by 2021. Some of the items on the Plastic Rivers list, like plastic cutlery, straws and cotton buds, are covered by the ban. The law also sets new targets for the collection of plastic bottles and requires cigarette companies to pay for removing butts from waterways.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Fabian Krause / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Elizabeth Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Paprika is a spice made from the dried peppers of the plant Capsicum annuum.

Read More Show Less
Water protectors of all persuasions gathered in talking circles at Borderland Ranch in Pe'Sla, the heart of the sacred Black Hills, during the first Sovereign Sisters Gathering. At the center are Cheryl Angel in red and white and on her left, Lyla June. Tracy Barnett

By Tracy L. Barnett

Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.

For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Hedges, 2019 © Hugh Hayden. All photos courtesy of Lisson Gallery

By Patrick Rogers

"I'm really into trees," said the sculptor Hugh Hayden. "I'm drawn to plants."

Read More Show Less
BruceBlock / iStock / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Thanks to their high concentration of powerful plant compounds, foods with a natural purple hue offer a wide array of health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Environmental Investigation Agency

By Genevieve Belmaker

Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Jessica Kourkounis / Stringer

The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.

"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."

The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.

"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

Pixabay

By Manuella Libardi

Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.

Read More Show Less
XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY / THE OCEAN AGENCY

Hope may be on the horizon for the world's depleted coral reefs thanks to scientists who successfully reproduced endangered corals in a laboratory setting for the first time, according to Reuters.

Read More Show Less