Exeter students set to ‘Sail Against Plastic’

A team of students and staff from the University of Exeter are set to embark on an 12-day voyage to measure pollution including micro-plastics in the Arctic.

The goal of the expedition, named Sail Against Plastic, is to discover the impact of non-visible pollution, such as noise pollution or micro-plastics, on marine life.

The trip, to the icy waters surrounding Svalbard in the Arctic Circle, will produce vital information on the build-up of toxic pollutants in marine food chains.

The team will travel on Blue Clipper, a 33m tall-ship, powered solely by wind and ideally suited to Arctic conditions.

Moria Connor, expedition leader and second year Conservation Biology and Ecology student, said: “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless by the scale of this issue.

“Now even walks along favourite beaches that once felt so untouched act as a reminder of how disconnected we’ve become to the impacts of our daily lifestyles.

“I strongly believe we need to take responsibility for what we bin, flush and discard.

“The fact plastic pollution that originates close to home is ending up in the Arctic shows how global this problem is. Plastic simply doesn’t respect borders.

“Collaboration is key, and studying at the University of Exeter in Cornwall alongside Falmouth University has made it amazingly easy to pull together a diverse student group of passionate scientists, environmentalists, photographers, artists and videographers.

“We'll be utilising our collective skills to raise awareness of the hidden threats our oceans are facing and show how we can all affect the planet positively, and make the world a better place, if we try.”

Svalbard is an icy archipelago in an extremely remote area between Norway and the North Pole, where baseline studies into unseen pollutants are desperately lacking.

Ocean currents, such as the Atlantic Gulf Stream, meet a “dead-end” close to Svalbard, meaning that a plethora of plastic waste is offloaded after being carried for hundreds of kilometres.

Flora Rendell, scientific director of the trip, said: “Sail Against Plastic is a key example of a project which encompasses both science and environmental education.

“Through visual arts, documentaries, photography, presentations and a children’s book, we hope to inspire others to live more sustainably on this fragile planet.”

The team includes representatives from Surfers Against Sewage, The Marine Conservation Society and Marine Megafauna Foundation.

To support to project or learn more, visit www.petiteblue.wixsite.com/sailagainstplastic