Authors: David Morritt, Paris V. Stefanoudis, Dave Pearce, Oliver A. Crimmen, Paul F. Clark
Although contamination of the marine ecosystems by plastics is becoming recognised as a serious pollution problem, there are few studies that demonstrate the contribution made by freshwater catchments. Over a three month period from September to December 2012, at seven localities in the upper Thames estuary, 8490 submerged plastic items were intercepted in eel fyke nets anchored to the river bed. Whilst there were significant differences in the numbers of items at these locations, the majority were some type of plastic. Additionally in excess of 20% of the litter items were components of sanitary products. The most contaminated sites were in the vicinity of sewage treatment works. While floating litter is visible, this study also demonstrates that a large unseen volume of submerged plastic is flowing into the marine environment. It is therefore important that this sub-surface component is considered when assessing plastic pollution input into the sea.