Teaming up against plastic waste!

The fascination for the ocean and rivers together with their importance as a guarantor of species diversity know no bounds. But plastic pollution on beaches and riverbanks in Europe also doesn’t stop at man-made borders. For this reason, avoiding micro- and macroplastic in the environment, a scientific approach to this challenge and researching sustainable materials are tasks which we Europeans must take on together.

As part of their joint Trio-Presidency of the Council of the European Union for 2020 and 2021, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia are advocating particularly for clean seas, ocean and rivers, as well as the nature surrounding these waters. At the same time, school classes and youth groups are called upon to collect plastic waste along the banks of rivers and streams, to document the various types of the plastic waste collected at different points of a section of a river and actively support research as part of this international citizen science campaign.

Have you found a suitable stretch along a river or stream? Then you can get started! Using the detailed project materials, the types of waste identified by the individual groups (e.g. cigarette butts, pieces of film or packaging) are published on a digital map, thus assisting the scientific community in gradually closing gaps in the existing research on the amount of different types of plastic waste. The fight against pollution from plastic waste, for cleaner water and for preserving natural resources for future generations in a united Europe can only be a success if we – the citizens – actively support joint political initiatives in the places we live.

Plastic Pirates – Go Europe! Are you with us?

The next sampling period starts in spring 2022. You can already discover exciting insights and useful information on our social wall.

There are new podcast episodes on our news page. Listen now and learn more about the plastic pirates in Slovenia and Portugal!


Goal of the campaign

The project

Europe is taking a joint approach to this task – a task with greater importance, and not only during the Trio-Presidency of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia of the Council of the European Union. Water makes up nearly two-thirds of the earth’s surface, and seas and the ocean have an enormous impact on the stability of our climate. Due to their diversity, bodies of water around the globe are a unique habitat for flora and fauna. If you live inland, far from the nearest sea, you may be asking yourselves what this all has to do with you? A lot!


Europe’s rivers: the lifeblood of an entire continent

It may start with small rivers further inland that connect to other rivers, but they eventually reach the sea. Need an example? The Danube, Europe’s longest river, flows through a total of ten different countries before reaching the Black Sea after traversing some 2,850 kilometres. Unfortunately, it’s not just ships, fish and plant remains that make their way to the sea via rivers. Different types of plastic waste as well – particles hardly visible to the human eye as well as yogurt pots or entire plastic bags in equal measure – ultimately find their way to the ocean.


The task

In 2020 and 2021, ‘capturing’ this waste on the riverbanks and near bodies of water becomes the Europe-wide task of the Plastic Pirates. By collecting plastic waste and uploading data on the amount of waste found, you – together with your school class or extracurricular youth group – can help conduct research on the pollution of bodies of water. Uniform experimental guidelines and working steps for all teams which participate ensure that, throughout Europe, the data collected is comparable and will become visible step by step on an online map.

On the one hand, the joint campaign of the ministries of education, science and research of the three countries is intended to raise awareness throughout Europe for the importance of rivers as common lifelines, as well as for protecting our natural resources. On the other hand, the campaign aims to emphasise the importance of international research collaboration.