Since 2016, young people have been successfully researching and mapping plastic pollution in and around rivers in Germany. As part of the citizen research project Plastic Pirates, they take on the role of scientists and investigate the state of our rivers. More than 1,300 data sets (status as of June 2023) on the occurrence of litter have already been collected in this way.
Now the expeditions are going into a new round: In the project "Plastic Pirates – German coast", school classes and youth groups search for plastic waste on the coasts and the river system of the Elbe – including its tributaries such as the Havel, Mulde or Saale. In doing so, they are making an important contribution to research. In fact, large-scale data on the occurrence and distribution of plastic litter in Germany so far mainly stem from citizen science projects. The new focus on a specific river system as well as on coastal areas will help to better understand correlations along the river course.
Opportunities to participate
School classes and youth groups can participate in overall four campaign periods, from autumn 2023 to spring 2025. The accompanying teaching materials as well as the project booklet guide through the sampling campaign and can be ordered by teachers or group leaders free of charge on the Plastic Pirates website as long as stocks last. As part of the sampling, the participating young people familiarize themselves with the ocean and water cycles. They explore the issue of plastic waste in the environment. In the process, they learn what scientific work means and try it out for themselves.
What will happen with the results?
The collected research data is uploaded to a central web platform and then analyzed by scientists from the Kiel Science Factory and Ecologic Institute. They will also be used to derive suitable solutions for the plastics crisis. The project is also part of the European initiative "Plastic Pirates - Go Europe!" and there is close cooperation with other participating countries across Europe.
The role of Ecologic Institute
Ecologic Institute supports the conception and development of a new coastal action booklet, including the development of a complementary methodology, which is led by the Kiel Science Factory and carried out together with the European partners of the Plastic Pirates. In addition, the project team of the Ecologic Institute is responsible for supervising interested parties and participants and supporting them during the sampling. To strengthen the social science research within the project, Ecologic Institute will conduct focus groups with selected school classes. The findings of the sampling will be discussed together with the scientists. In this way, the young people will be even more involved in the research process and encouraged to critically reflect on the results.