Das Einzugsgebiet der Elbe. Copyright: CC NordNordWest, CC BY-SA 3.0
The Plastic Pirates will investigate the Elbe river system in fall 2023
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In the fall of 2023, there will be a new "Plastic Pirates" campaign period in Germany. This time, the focus is on the Elbe river system. School classes and youth groups are invited to take on the role of scientists and go in search of plastic waste on the Elbe and its tributaries. In doing so, they will be making an important contribution to research into environmental pollution in the vicinity of the river. The new focus on a river system helps to better understand the interrelationships of the transport of waste from the river towards the sea.

After the Rhine and the Danube, the Elbe is the third most water-rich river in Germany. Its catchment area is almost 150,000 km² (which is about twice the area of Bavaria). More than 60 % of the catchment area is located in Germany, spread over ten federal states: Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, Berlin, Saxony, Thuringia and Bavaria.

In addition to the 1094 km long main stream of the Elbe, all tributaries can be sampled by the "Plastic Pirates". These include larger rivers such as the Havel, Mulde, Saale or Unstrut.  But numerous smaller tributaries are also part of the river system. For example, the Panke in Berlin flows into the Spree, which in turn flows into the Havel, which eventually flows into the Elbe. If you are not sure whether a river or stream in your area can be sampled, please contact us at

Sampling can be carried out during the campaign period from September 15 to November 15. The action booklet and associated teaching and working materials can be ordered free of charge here from mid-August 2023. We send the material to school classes and youth groups who want to study the river system of the Elbe. The material will be sent while stocks last. Brochures from previous campaign periods can also still be used.

The action booklets and teaching manuals are also available for download on our website and can be used in digital form or printed out. Even if your school is not located close to the Elbe catchment area and you would still like to conduct a sampling, you can use our digitally provided materials and upload your data on the website afterwards. However, we cannot promise that these data will be included in the scientific study of the Elbe river system.