Peel NRE’s Sustainability and Engagement Manager, Lois Kay, on tackling plastic pollution, protecting our waterways and plans for the Plastic Park at Protos.

What is the Plastic Free Mersey project and how is Peel NRE involved?  

Plastic Free Mersey is a project led by environmental charities Thames21 and Mersey Rivers Trust. It strives to improve the water quality of the River Mersey whilst bringing together various areas of the community to better understand how plastics enter the river and the types and quantities of plastics. 

The key goals are: 

  • Together with the community, cleaning the river and nearby blue-green space of plastic waste
  • Deepening our understanding of the causes and impacts of plastic pollution 
  • Surveying the plastic waste to understand the types and quantities of plastic in the river  

Peel NRE has been supporting the project since 2021. Much of Peel NRE’s work is focussed within the Mersey catchment area and so it was a natural fit as a way for us to get involved in the collective effort to improve our rivers and waterways. 

As well as providing financial support, we attend the monthly Plastic Free Mersey coordination meetings where all the partners share local knowledge and experiences to help shape the activities being deployed by the project. 

We also help raise awareness of the project and support with volunteer recruitment through our social media and local stakeholder networks. In the last six months, myself and colleagues from across Peel NRE have joined two litter pick volunteer days organised by Mersey Rivers Trust. As well as cleaning up areas adjacent to the river, we contributed to scientific research to aid a better understanding of the different plastics entering our waterways by recording litter types at each location. 

Can you tell us a little about the consented Plastic Park at Protos?  

Protos is set to become the home of the UK’s first Plastic Park. 

The Plastic Park will provide a solution for the management of some of the 4.9 million tonnes of plastic waste generated in the UK each year. 

The Plastic Park will deal with a wide range of plastic waste providing recycling and recovery solutions for materials where recycling has not previously been a viable option. It will utilise a combination of technologies to maximise what can be removed for recycling, with the remaining non-recyclable plastic used to create electricity, hydrogen or other products.  

What does reducing plastic mean to you?  

Personally, I focus on the hierarchy of reduce reuse and recycle, making conscious choices each day to only use single use items where absolutely unavoidable.  

This can be difficult, but I believe that we all need to be making these changes in order to live more sustainably.  

Once an item has come to the end of its use, it’s important to ensure that plastic and other litter is never left in the natural environment, and that we dispose of it correctly.   

What steps can people take in their everyday life to reduce plastic consumption?   

Some of the things that I do are to buy loose fruit and vegetables (this can also help us to buy the amount that we actually need and so can support reduction in food waste too), use refill schemes for cleaning products, and wash and reuse zip lock bags instead of throwing them away.  

How can the public get involved in the Plastic Free Mersey project?    

What sets this project apart from others is that the Mersey Rivers Trust team are providing training to volunteers allowing them to undertake citizen science (where the public voluntarily helps conduct scientific research), in this case to support litter type and quantity data collection.  

Volunteers not only collect litter from the banks of the River Mersey but also survey the types of plastic litter and collate that data so that we can understand where plastic might be entering the waterways.  

To get involved you only need to give up a couple of hours a month. You’ll help to survey a local riverbank and record the data on a mobile app. The project coordinators at Mersey Rivers Trust are particularly keen to recruit more volunteers along the rivers listed below – you may already walk along some of these with your dog, or on a weekend stroll with friends or family. If so, this is an easy way to give back to your community and support the collection of vital data.  

  • Sankey Brook – West Warrington and St Helens areas 
  • River Mersey in the East Warrington area 
  • River Glaze – Atherton, Leigh, East Warrington areas 
  • River Bollin – Lymm, Knutsford, Macclesfield areas  
  • River Goyt and River Etherow – Stockport, Marple, Glossop, Hadfield areas  
  • River Irk – Chadderton, Royton, Middleton, Harpurhey, Collyhurst, and parts of Manchester City Centre (east)   
  • River Medlock – east Oldham, Droylsden, Beswick, parts of Manchester City Centre (east)   
  • River Roch – Littleborough, Rochdale, Heywood, east Bury areas   
  • River Irwell, River Croal, Eagley Brook and Bradshaw Brook – Bolton, Bacup, Rawtenstall, west Bury, Prestwich, Whitefield, City of Salford   
  • River Weaver – Crewe, Nantwich, Northwich, Winsford areas  
  • River Dane – Congleton, Middlewich, Sandbach areas  

For more information about Plastic Free Mersey visit Plastic Free Mersey - Plastic litter has no place in the natural environment - Thames21   

Read more about Peel NRE here.