Get involved in citizen science to help the environment! Plastic pollution in nature is one of today’s major global environmental problems. The production, use and waste management of plastic products leads to environmental impacts that affect humans, plants and animals. In ForskarFredag’s mass experiment 2022 – the Plastic Experiment – school pupils can be part of a research project to help map how much plastic pollution can be found in different types of nature throughout Sweden.
Plastic pollution in the oceans has received a lot of attention in recent years, but plastic waste is basically a problem that comes from the land. Excessive use of single-use plastic and packaging as well as ineffective waste management means that plastic often ends up in nature instead of being recycled. In order to solve these problems and reduce plastic litter in nature, we need to understand more about where, when and why plastic ends up there. This is something we don’t yet understand!
Through a nationwide citizen science project, involving participants across the whole of Sweden collecting and analysing plastic waste, we will undertake a scientific study together with a researcher to investigate the extent of plastic in the Swedish natural environment. How much plastic is there in nature? What type of plastic is it and how does it vary between different places and types of habitat? These are some of the questions we want to answer. Together, we can collect far more data than has previously been possible, or than one researcher could do on their own.
How it will work
The Plastic Experiment is divided into two parts, a collection part and a voluntary analysis part. During the collection part, participants will help to survey plastic litter in the Swedish environment. Each group of participants will select one of six types of natural environment and collect the plastic litter found in a 100-meter-long area. The collected litter is then weighed and sorted into different categories of plastic (e.g. disposable cutlery, straws and plastic bags). The data is then submitted using an online tool.
Once collection is complete, the type of plastic can be then identified in the voluntary analysis part of the experiment. This is done with the help of an identification key whereby the properties of the plastic are tested e.g. in water, in oil and during combustion. Using the key, the outcome of the tests determines the type of plastic (polymer type). The analysis part is best suited to pupils in Year 7 and above.
The Swedish government has declared that Sweden aims to be a world leader in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 global goals for sustainable development. The Plastic Experiment will contribute to the implementation of a number of global goals and sub-goals, particularly because plastic pollutants and many of the chemicals found in plastics are hazardous to health. The project will contribute to:
Goal 3: Good health and wellbeing – to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, particularly via sub-goal 3.9 – Reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and pollution.
Goal 4: Quality education – to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, particularly via sub-goal 4.7 – Education for sustainable development and global citizenship.
Goal 6 Clean water and sanitation – to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, particularly via sub-goal 6.3 – Improve water quality and the treatment of wastewater and increase recycling.
Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities – to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, particularly via sub-goal 11.6 – Reduce the environmental impact of cities.
Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production – to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, particularly via sub-goal 12.4 – Environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle.
Goal 14: Life below water – to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable developed, particularly sub-goal 14.1 – reduce marine pollution and sub-goal 14.a Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology to improve ocean health.
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