Styrofoam in the top three types of waste along rivers

During the spring survey of the Clean Rivers initiative, volunteers found pieces of polystyrene foam of 70 percent of the widths: an average of 80 per. 100 meters. Styrofoam is one of the three types of waste most commonly encountered. IVN Naturuddannelse, Nordsøfonden and Plastsuppefonden, the parties behind Rene Åer, are calling for better legislation and rules.

More than a thousand citizen researchers go out twice a year to collect and measure waste along the great rivers as part of Clean Rivers. The most recent round took place between 15 February and 15 March, and the results of this spring survey were published today in a fact sheet. In total, almost 127,000 pieces of waste have been registered at 418 banks.

That comes down to an average of 304 pieces per. one hundred meters. The number is relatively low compared to what was observed in previous spring measurements. According to the fact sheet, a clear reason for this cannot be identified. Sixteen banks have been designated as hotspots. More than 1,200 pieces of waste per. hundred meters were found at these places, most of which are in Limburg and around Rotterdam.

Mainly plastic waste
Nearly 91 percent of waste is plastic. Plastic pieces – including Styrofoam – whose source is unknown are the most common. Unrecognizable pieces of polystyrene foam occur on 70 percent of the banks surveyed, and on average, 80 pieces are present at one hundred meters wide. The volunteers recorded pieces of soft and hard plastic less than fifty centimeters at several banks. However, the figures are on average lower than with polystyrene foam (see table).

Styrofoam Found (Photo: Clean Rivers)

Undefinable pieces of polystyrene foam have been in the top 15 of most found waste types since the start of the measurements in 2018 and have always been in the top 3 since the spring of 2020. This may be related to the expansion of Clean Rivers research, the fact sheet states. Where previously only measurements were made on the Maas and the Rhine, this has also been the case for other major Dutch rivers in the last two years. More Styrofoam can rinse up there.

Spread of Styrofoam everywhere
Styrofoam has officially expanded polystyrene (EPS) and is also called tempex. The material is used, among other things, for insulation and packaging. Project manager Joost Barendrecht from Schone Rivieren explains why so much polystyrene foam ends up on the banks of large rivers.

“Styrofoam is easily carried by the wind and floats and spreads everywhere. Eventually it ends up in the rivers, which is why we find it so much along the banks. In addition, it naturally crumbles very easily into small pieces or into balls. It also makes it difficult to clean up.”

Almost no laws and regulations yet
According to IVN Naturuddannelse, Nordsøfonden and Plastsuppefonden, polystyrene foam causes a number of direct animal diseases. For example, the small pieces and balls are confused with the food of birds, and they get stuck in the stomach. The three organizations point out that there are hardly any laws and regulations to prevent contamination with Styrofoam. In this context, they call on the government to speed up this process.

It is also important that the business community recognizes the polystyrene foam problem and starts working on solutions, says Barendregt. “There are already good examples of companies taking steps to prevent polystyrene foam from being blown into their premises or on construction sites. They are already taking responsibility themselves, but as long as there are no clear rules from the government, it will never happen on a large scale. It is also seen that alternatives are emerging in the packaging industry. So it can be different. ” Clean Rivers is hosting a hackathon in October for new solutions.

Top 15 Waste Types Found In Source: Factshea spring survey 2022 Clean Rivers

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