The “Plastic Pirates – Go Europe!” project aims to keep rivers, lakes and seas clean. But the “plastic pirates” are also part of a Europe-wide citizen science project to ascertain the extent to which plastic waste is contaminating bodies of water. The project was originally an initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Volunteers, known as plastic pirates, have documented waste in their local waterways in almost 780 places in Germany over the last four years. Their reports were then reviewed and evaluated by experts.

Environmental protection at the heart of the trio presidency

Germany, Portugal and Slovenia will be focusing during their joint Trio Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2020 and 2021 on supporting science and research into clean oceans, seas, running bodies of water and the natural environment surrounding them. The “Plastic Pirates – Go Europe!” project is making a valuable contribution.

Firstly, the project aims to strengthen awareness across Europe about the importance of rivers as shared lifelines and pique interest in protecting natural resources. Moreover, the project seeks to make visible for all the importance of international collaboration on research.

How can young people get involved?

In 2020, the Europe-wide aim of the plastic pirates is to “capture” waste along riverbanks and in the immediate surroundings of bodies of water. By recording plastic waste and uploading data on the waste investigated, you and your class or youth group can help with research into pollution surrounding bodies of water. Since all participating teams follow the same experimental design and the same steps, the data produced across Europe is comparable and will be published gradually onto an online map.

You can find step-by-step instructions and a helpful video that explains the research expedition here. You can find the necessary materials there, post your results and see the results of other teams.