Rivers are an important transport route of anthropogenic litter from inland sources toward the sea. A collaborative (i.e. citizen science) approach was used to evaluate the litter pollution of rivers in Germany: schoolchildren within the project “Plastic Pirates” investigated rivers across the entire country during the years 2016 and 2017 by surveying floating macrolitter at 282 sites and taking 164 meso−/microplastic samples (i.e. particles 24.99–5 mm, and 4.99–1 mm, respectively). Floating macrolitter was sighted at 54% of sampling sites and floating macrolitter quantities ranged from 0 to 8.25 items m−1 h−1 (average of 0.34 ± 0.89 litter items m−1 h−1). Floating meso−/microplastics were present at 57% of the sampling sites, and floating meso−/microplastic quantities ranged from 0 to 220 particles h−1 (average of 6.86 ± 24.11 items h−1). As only particles >1 mm were sampled and analyzed, the pollution of rivers in Germany by microplastics could be a much more prevalent problem, regardless of the size of the river. We identified six plastic pollution hotspots where 60% of all meso−/microplastics collected in the present study were found. These hotspots were located close to a plastic-producing industry site, a wastewater treatment plant, at and below weirs, or in residential areas. The composition of the particles at these hotspots indicates plastic producers and possibly the construction industry and wastewater treatment plants as point sources. An identification of litter hotspots would enable specific mitigation measures, adjusted to the respective source, and thereby could prevent the release of large quantities of small plastic particles in rivers. The adopted large-scale citizen science approach was especially suitable to detect pollution hotspots by sampling a variety of rivers, large and small, and enabled a national overview of litter pollution in German rivers.
ZeitschriftScience of The Total Environment
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 01.10.2021
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ID: 1635756