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BBC News Science & Environment
Levels of plastic contamination discovered in the River Mersey should be a “wake-up call” for the government to tighten controls on use of the material, an environmental pressure group said.
Tests by the Greenpeace ranked the Mersey worst among 13 UK rivers after it used nets to catch 942 pieces of microplastic within an hour.
They included plastic manufacturing pellets and microbeads, tiny spherical pieces of plastic often used in cosmetic and household products, despite a partial ban on their use.
Greenpeace claimed its tests on the Mersey in Warrington showed it was likely to contain more plastic than the so-called "great Pacific garbage patch" between California and Hawaii.
Prof Jamie Woodward, from the School of Geography at the University of Manchester, said Greenpeace's analysis supports its research which showed microplastics in the river bed sediments in the Mersey catchment was "higher than in any other environment".
Greenpeace called for the government to introduce plastic reduction targets in its forthcoming Environment Bill.
The other rivers tested were the Exe, Thames, Severn, Great Ouse, Trent, Aire, Derwent, Wear, Conwy, Wye, Clyde and Lagan.
A spokesman for the The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was funding “ground-breaking research into how microplastics enter waterways and working with the water industry to find new methods to detect, measure and remove microplastics from wastewater".
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Singing with whales, a cloud of bats and the ballad of a rare bird - Josie Long presents short documentaries and adventures in sound about the natural world. Whale Duet A version of this story first appeared on the podcast Sound Matters Interview by Tim Hinman Produced by Andrea Rangecroft Bats in the Attic Produced by Jessie Lawson The Lord God Bird Originally broadcast in 2005 Produced by Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister of Long Haul Productions The song - Great God Bird - was written and performed by Sufjan Stevens To listen to the song in its entirety and to hear more Long Haul stories, go to www.longhaulpro.org Production Team: Alia Cassam and Eleanor McDowall Produced by Andrea Rangecroft A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4