Science

Microplastics found at peak of Snowdon highlight affect of climate change

By Holly Giles

Snowdon is a place of national pride for Wales and is regarded by many as a place of beauty unaffected by the rest of society; however, sadly, research published this week has proved that this isn’t the case. Researchers of the School of Natural Sciences at Bangor University have found microplastics near the peak of Snowdon. They think this is particularly telling when, due to inaccessibility it is unlikely to be as a direct result of litter but more likely to be deposited by rain, caused by litter breaking down and being deposited into the water systems. This shows the widespread impact of global plastic use.

 

Dr Dunn from Bagnor University explained the sadness of their findings; “The results are scary when you think that this is at the top of a mountain and a very remote location. However a more detailed analysis would almost certainly find more plastic. I should be surprised because it’s so horrific, but sadly I’m not.”

 

A particularly striking part of this research is their method for collecting the data; many of the locations are inaccessible by foot so activist Laura Sanderson swam up the mountain from the river’s source and collected water samples in glass bottles along the way. Laura swam a total of 16 miles but it’s far from over. The team have now asked her to continue this swim at the 15 other national parks located across the UK in a ‘source to sea’ challenge. The challenge is expected to include 980km of swimming and will collect 220 litres of samples. This can then be analysed by the team to provide further indication to our plastic problem. The project is expected to take up to a year to complete but, as Laura explained, “we want to see just how widespread the problem is and look at waterways in all our national parks”.

 

The samples from Snowdon are currently reporting an average of 3 pieces of microplastic per litre from the lake but the team knows this is probably an underestimation. Hopefully after this year-long project the team will have a clear picture of microplastics in the UK and, from this, a strategy for how to combat it.

 

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