Group photo

Plastic Pirates on a “Mission Ocean” in Hamburg

Ship Ahoy! The Plastic Pirates Crew is back from their trip to Hamburg with a brief travel report.




Flyer - Cover

Brandnew Plastic Pirates flyer available now!

Check out the Plastic Pirates flyer to learn more about the Plastic Pirates initiative, its main objectives and the participating European countries.




Teaming up against plastic waste!

The fascination with 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.

Plastic Pirates – Go Europe! is a European Citizen Science campaign, in which school classes and youth groups collect plastic samples from streams and rivers and document their findings. The collected data is then analysed by scientists and researchers. In this way, young European citizens are making an important contribution to researching the state of European rivers and the extent and pollution caused by plastic waste.

The campaign was first developed as Plastic Pirates in Germany in 2016 by the Kieler Forschungswerkstatt (Kiel Research Workshop) and partners with funding from the BMBF for the Science Year 2016*17 - Seas and Oceans. In 2018 and 2019, the campaign was continued as part of the research focus "Plastics in the Environment" in cooperation with the Ecologic Institute.  During Germany’s EU Presidency in 2020, the campaign was extended to the countries of the Trio-Presidency and implemented as a joint campaign by the Ministries of Education, Science and Research in Germany, Portugal and Slovenia in the period from 2020 to 2021.

Since January 2022, the campaign has been expanded to the whole of Europe with the support of the EU Commission. The Europeanisation of the Plastic Pirates Citizen Science initiative is funded by the European Commission's Research Framework Programme – Horizon Europe – in the area of the "Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030 Mission". From 2022 to 2024, coordinated and synchronised "Plastic Pirates" collection campaigns will take place across Europe.

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 be a success only if we – the citizens – actively support joint political initiatives in the places we live.

Plastic Pirates – Go Europe! Are you with us?

Now you can also listen to the informative podcast episodes on our News page!


Goal of the campaign

The project

Europe is taking a joint approach to this task – a task with global importance. 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, ‘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.