ADDED VALUE OF EUROPEANISATION

Citizen science projects will only reach their full potential and maximum EU added value if implemented on a transnational and Europe-wide level. The European-wide roll out of the Plastic Pirates will allow sampling in rivers across Europe in a harmonised and standardised manner. It can 

  • massively extend existing data,
  • improve scientific understanding and knowledge
  • and, thus, help to develop systematic solutions for the prevention, reduction, and removal of marine and riverine pollution, particularly plastics.

Researchers across Europe will be able to draw on open and accessible data from existing European data portals, which would otherwise not be available.

HORIZON EUROPE FOR EUROPEAN WIDE ROLL-OUT

If you are interested in joining and participating in the initiative, you can contact the Action’s coordinator DLR Projektträger: plastic-pirates@dlr.de.

POLITICAL BACKGROUND

The ERA Policy Agenda has identified Plastic Pirates as part of the ERA action action “Bring Science closer to Citizens” for the period 2022-2024. As such, Plastic Pirates will contribute to the key priority area: Taking up together the challenges posed by the twin green and digital transition, and increasing society’s participation in the ERA. Already in December 2020, the Council called, in its Conclusions on the New European Research Area, “on the Commission and Member States to further develop and implement the “plastic pirates” citizen science campaign as the ERA pilot action to foster “interaction” within the ERA in order to raise awareness among citizens, in particular young citizens, on the impact and benefits of R&I in their daily lives [as well as] encouraging cooperation with the proposed Mission on Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal and Inland Water.

The Plastic Pirates will help to achieve the objectives of the Mission Restore our Ocean and Waters, in particular its ambition to prevent and eliminate pollution in European seas and waters, and is included as specific action in its implementation plan. The initiative also contributes to key European environmental policy objectives, notably the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Water Framework Directive and the Zero Pollution Action Plan for Air, Water and Soil. Finally, the campaign will also serve as a showcase example for the European Year of Youth 2022.

The PlasticPiratesEU Action

While there is already a fair understanding of the origins of plastic litter in a few selected European regions and river systems, research data across Europe so far is largely fragmentary, if existent at all. By applying the citizen science approach to investigate the importance of rivers as pathways to ocean pollution, the ongoing Plastic Pirates – Go Europe! citizen science initiative enables researchers to identify sources of and mitigation measures for plastic pollution. Through upscaling the initiative to the coverage of river systems and geographical areas across the EU, citizens will be empowered to produce data at the local level and, thereby, to contribute to closing the research gap at the European level. To enable young people and pupils to investigate litter pollution of rivers in Europe, the initiative provides didactically elaborated educational material. Through this approach citizens are engaged and empowered for the challenges posed by the twin green and digital transition. It contributes to a growing participation of society in the European Research Area.

Drawing on six years of successful implementation in Germany, and since 2020 in Portugal and Slovenia, the action `PlasticPiratesEU’ will expand the Plastic Pirates – Go Europe! initiative’s activities to other EU member states. Die Ausweitung fördert die EU-Kommission mit der internationalen Maßnahme „Europeanisation of the Plastic Pirates citizen science initiative“ als Teil des Rahmenprogramms für Forschung und Innovation, Horizont Europa, im Bereich der Mission für Gesunde Ozeane, Meere, Küsten- und Binnengewässer. Die Maßnahme startete im Juni 2022 und hat eine Laufzeit von 30 Monaten. The upscaling of the initiative will contribute substantially to providing an overview of plastic pollution in and along European rivers, thereby empowering children and young people to contribute to the Ocean Mission’s policy core objective to prevent and eliminate pollution in European seas and waters. The action will thus respond to the Council’s call “on the Commission and Member States to further develop and implement the ‘plastic pirates’ citizen science campaign as the ERA pilot action  to foster internal ‘interaction’.

The overall objective of this action is to upscale the successful citizen science initiative “Plastic Pirates – Go Europe!” to interested EU Member States and Horizon Europe Associated Countries. In doing so, the action aims to raise awareness among citizens and, in particular, young citizens, in larger parts of Europe on the impact and benefits that research and innovation can have on their daily lives, to increase the capacity to collect, organise and verify data on plastic waste pollution stemming from and in European rivers, coastlines and seas, and to test, replicate and refine best practice models for linking excellent science and citizen engagement in order to reach the Ocean Mission’s objective of restoring our ocean, seas and waters while supporting the monitoring of EU policy objectives.

In doing so, the action aims to achieve the following specific objectives:

Go Europe: Upscale and rollout of the Plastic Pirates – Go Europe! initiative across Europe

The action will mobilise additional MS/AC beyond the initiating 2020-2021 Presidency-Trio Germany, Slovenia and Portugal. It applies an approach that supports de-centralised and, at the same time, coordinated, sampling campaigns across the EU during 2022, as well the following years in 2023 and 2024 (over the entire 30 month-action) with the support of interested MS/AC. 

Go local: Support local partners and set up research hubs to increase capacity to verify (imperfect) data and analyse it de-centrally

The action will support local Plastic Pirates partners in the MS/AC joining the initiative, allowing for synchronised and closely coordinated European sampling campaigns with young citizens including accompanying communication activities. Local partners will verify and analyse the collected data to ensure a European-wide coordinated approach.

Go science: Support excellent science and the implementation and monitoring of EU policy objectives

Applying a large-scale citizen science approach, the initiative produces vast amounts of cross-country data in a harmonised and standardised manner. The local partners’ will provide this data to researchers, stakeholders and policymakers at the local, national and EU level. This includes supporting the implementation and monitoring of central EU policy objectives, such as the Zero Pollution Action Plan for Water, Air and Soil, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Water Framework Directive. The action will increase the understanding on plastic pollution in European rivers, coasts and seas and serve as a blue print for other relevant citizen science initiatives by producing easily accessible data on plastic waste in the marine and freshwater domain, applying standardised approaches for sampling, data collection and storage with open access of data in line with the FAIR principles. Moreover, it will connect this data to existing European data portals, such as EMOD-Net, and contribute to the development of European Digital Twin Ocean. 

Go society: Engage and empower citizens, in particular young people, across Europe

The action aims to raise awareness among citizens, in particular young people, on the impact and benefits of R&I in their daily lives, thereby engaging and empowering them for facing the challenges posed by the twin green and digital transition, and increasing societal participation in the European Research Area. In doing so, the action contributes to building a pan-European community with citizens on combatting plastic waste pollution in the aquatic and marine environment.

Go beyond: Identify replicable best practice models and approaches to citizen science

The action seeks to further refine the initiative’s approach to citizen science and its methodology. Thereby, the action identifies replicable best practices models for linking excellent science and citizen engagement, in this case based on the Mission’s objective to restore our oceans, seas and waters. This includes the expansion of the current focus of the initiative on rivers and inland waterways to also assess plastic waste pollution on coastlines and seas while maintaining comparability and quality of the data produced by the initiative. The action will review and refine the applied citizen science approach with regards to target group, outreach activities, background material, engagement and follow-up with the participants. Ultimately, the action aims to produce a broader knowledge on upscaling citizen science initiatives and engaging citizens through citizen science.