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How does the project Plastic Pirates actually work?

We split up into groups and did a lot of reading to prepare. Then we went to the Rhine in Düsseldorf one day and chose a section of the riverbank which was very diverse: lots of grass, stones, a pathway, but also water. One group searched the grass along the pathway.

There was a lot of plastic - for example tissue wrappers - although there were bins along the path. Amongst the stones, there were many glass bottles, remains of barbecues and a mountain of cigarette butts. In the water, we found many pieces of plastic packaging which people could have disposed of at home! We were there for more than six hours. I was really horrified that there was so much waste lying around in such a small section of the riverbank.

How did you document what you found? 

One person in the group had the job of noting down how many cigarette butts or pieces of packaging had been found. They also recorded where the waste had been found. We put all the rubbish we found in one area. We then uploaded our results on the Plastic Pirates website. Experts in Kiel then evaluated our results.

How did you get involved in the Plastic Pirates campaign?

It all started during an extra lesson on the environment and renewable energies. We talked about Plastic Pirates and we were pretty keen to get involved. We learnt a lot, particularly because we are looking at wind energy and plastic in the oceans at the minute.

How did you expect the project to shape up?

I thought it was a super idea because it was something completely new to me. Usually it’s Fridays for Future that everyone is talking about. It was good to be able to roll up our sleeves and do some research.

From this year, young people all across Europe can be Plastic Pirates. Is that good?

I think it’s very good. To date, there were only Plastic Pirates in Germany and now we can bring about change across borders. It is only something small – but if you do it regularly, it has an impact. It’s good to do something for the environment as a team.

Do you have tips for those now wanting to document pollution in their rivers and lakes across Europe?

I would say they can really achieve something with the campaign. It really is more than you would think – even if it is only on a small scale. I would tell the young people to walk and ride their bikes more. Buy products with less plastic packaging in the supermarket. The campaign shows you how much amasses. I hope it encourages people to have a rethink.