An expedition along 9 major European rivers to describe and understand the origins and flux of plastic waste.
Finding the origins of marine plastic pollution
How much plastic is found in our rivers?
Where exactly are microplastics found?
What is the origin of plastic waste in the environment?
What happens to plastic waste once it reaches the ocean?
We still have a lot to learn about the « plastic empire » — pollution detected 40 years ago in every corner of the world.
Up to 8 million tonnes of plastic are released into the ocean each year, according to current scientific models. The number of plastic fragments in the ocean is estimated at 5,000 billion—equal to the total quantity of zooplankton in the Mediterranean—one of the world’s most polluted seas.
Why does this massive quantity of plastic, undoubtedly toxic, flow increasingly into the waters of the Blue Planet? The schooner Tara, with her partners and sponsors, set out to answer this question in 2019.
In day-to-day life
From sea to land
This freshwater expedition, following the 9 major rivers that traverse the countryside, cities and towns of Europe, was a reminder of our often forgotten link with the Ocean.
7months of expedition
5proposed amendments to the circular economy law
140million plastic bottles per year discarded in nature in France
« For a long time we thought that transformation of plastics into microplastics happened at sea, under the influence of sun and waves. However, the process also seems to be taking place in rivers and their catchment areas. Our research is making it possible to better understand the phenomena of plastic fragmentation, quantify what comes from rivers, and assess the nature of plastic pollution in order to guide the measures to be taken. »
Jean-François Ghiglione, director of research, CNRS
Common Idea: It’s possible to walk on the “plastic continent”. No! The image of a “continent” suggests the magnitude of the phenomenon, but does not mean dry land.
Researchers speak of plastic “soup”, a mixture of large and small plastics accumulating in certain places at the ocean’s surface.
Plastic at sea — the solutions are on land!
All 2,700 samples collected from the rivers contain plastic, including upstream of cities such as London, Hamburg or Rouen.
The majority of plastic found in river water samples are in the form of microplastics. This pollution is invisible, impossible to collect, and calls for major actions on land to stop the flow.
Six actions to take ashore
-improve collection and recycling
-reduce single-use disposable plastics
-reduce the number of chemicals and resins added to plastic -reinvent packaging to eliminate toxic polystyrene -reinstate a deposit system for PET bottles
-obtain a United Nations Treaty concerning plastic
A Tara mission, 100 % French
This mission on the rivers of Europe was prepared in just 6 months, with 17 French laboratories in as many scientific disciplines.
Labs & partners
Scientific director of the Tara Microplastics Mission, CNRS director of research
Executive director of the Tara Ocean Foundation
Alexandra TER HALLE
Université de Perpignan
Institut de chimie de Clermont Ferrand
ImmunRise Biocontrol France