University supports global initiative to tackle marine plastics

The University of Plymouth is building on its world-leading reputation for marine litter research by supporting an international initiative targeting the issue’s causes and effects.

The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is launching 35 new Blue Charter Fellowships, thanks to funding from the Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

It will see early career researchers being hosted at ACU member universities in the UK, Canada, India, South Africa and the Commonwealth Small Island Developing States, where they will receive support from specialist mentors with expertise in their areas of research.

The programme, which will be supported by the University’s International Marine Litter Research Unit and the Research and Innovation directorate, will focus on research covering areas including preventing plastics from getting into the sea, developing alternatives to plastics and the potential for cleaning up the seas.

Professor Richard Thompson OBE, one of the world’s leading experts in marine litter research, said:

“Marine litter is a global problem and something the whole world is waking up to. But while there is widespread recognition of the environmental impacts plastic is having in our oceans, it is essential to also realise that it can only be tackled by uniting the fields of science, industry, policy makers and consumers. These new Fellowships are a really positive step towards addressing that, using research and partnerships as a means to achieve positive global change. In addition they will help generate the next generation of scientists to help take us forward toward cleaner more sustainable use of our oceans.”

Dr Joanna Newman, ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General, commented:

“Marine pollution – and the scourge of marine plastics in our oceans – is one of the most pressing issues our global community must confront. Universities are uniquely placed to help solve such challenges – and these Blue Charter Fellowships will enable new research and innovation to flourish through the exchange of people and ideas. I’m delighted that the ACU’s expertise in scholarships provision and commitment to supporting academic mobility has once more been recognised with this funding.”

Dr Nick Hardman-Mountford, Head of Ocean and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, added:

“The ocean is vital to the sustainability, wellbeing and economies of Commonwealth countries, so they have agreed to work together through the Commonwealth Blue Charter to address the myriad of regional and international ocean-related commitments they face. Science and research is vital to inform policy and actions towards achieving these commitments and targets. The Commonwealth Blue Charter provides an action-orientated collaborative mechanism for countries to address ocean issues, and the ACU Blue Charter Fellowships will provide an exceptional opportunity for Commonwealth academic researchers to build their capacity and progress critical research that will feed into this process.”

International Marine Litter Research Unit

Marine litter is a global environmental problem with items of debris now contaminating habitats from the poles to the equator, from the sea surface to the deep sea.

Furthering our understanding of litter on the environment and defining solutions

Find out more about the International Marine Litter Research Unit

Research and Innovation

Driving the exploitation of research and knowledge transfer opportunities in order to deliver significant added value to the University, the wider economy and community

Read more about our work in this area