Plastic waste in coastal areas and the expanding “Plastic Soup” in our oceans are a growing threat for the marine environment. In recent years the role of rivers as a potential main contributor to marine plastic pollution has been suggested. Yet, the scale of such input remains to be systematically quantified. If high contributions can be determined, considering the vastness of oceans and seas and the great depth of some, the feasibility of projects removing plastic in rivers might be better than those in which plastic is removed from the open oceans.
Therefore, the University of Antwerp (ECOBE & SPHERE), in cooperation with the NGO Zero Plastic Rivers, will study the potential contribution of the Scheldt river to the worldwide “Plastic Soup”. The aim is to quantify the plastic flux for the Scheldt basin. In this project we will only focus on macroplastics (≥2.5cm). For this fraction it is still realistic to design removal strategies, which eventually is the ultimate goal of this project. To answer the above mentioned questions, in 2018 a monitoring network was set-up. Fluxes are determined by point measurements. For this, different monitoring techniques will be used, like: fyke nets, a fishing technique called anchor netting and a specially designed “combination sampler”. The latter allows to study the vertical distribution. Additionally a study is set-up to analyze plastic waste that ends-up on riverbank, which might yield vital information on its (temporary) sink function. Furthermore, marked items are monitored on their journey through the estuary.
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