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Plastic Pirates – Go Europe!

July 22nd, 2020

The Citizen Science Project of the BMBF and the Kiel Forschungswerkstatt conquer Europe

The starting shot was fired today for the project "Plastic Pirates - Go Europe! In the follow-up project of the Plastic Pirates, children and teens in Germany, Portugal and Slovenia will research the waste pollution of rivers beginning in September. The scientific coordination of this large-scale project is the responsibility of the Kieler Forschungswerkstatt, which has launched the Youth Action 2016 with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Since 2018, it is also supported by the Ecologic Institute in Berlin.

The trio presidency of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia in the Council of the European Union over the next 18 months means that the Citizen Science Project will now take place simultaneously in three European countries for the first time in the period 2020-2021. The project is funded by the BMBF, the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education and the Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. The Federal Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek, the Portuguese Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education Manuel Heitor and the Slovenian Minister of Education, Science and Sport Dr. Simona Kustec Lipicer opened the project during the informal meeting of the EU Research Ministers, which, due to the current situation, was held as a video conference.

In the first joint action period from September 15th to November 15th, 2020, the "Plastic Pirates" will conquer the river banks in the participating countries. How much plastic waste is found on and in European rivers? Where does the waste come from? And are small plastic particles also transported towards the sea in European rivers? The participants in the three countries will explore these questions using scientific methods and then upload their data on a joint action website ( The public can then view them here. The data is evaluated by the Kiel Forschungswerkstatt as well as by scientific and educational institutions in the partner countries.

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Using micro plastic sieves, the boys and girls take samples on the river beach. These sieves with a mesh size of 1 mm can be borrowed free of charge from the Kieler Forschungswerkstatt. Photo/Copyright: Kiel Research Workshop

To determine the amount of micro plastics floating in the river, the participants use a net that they attach to a jetty, a small bridge or an easily accessible spot on the riverbank. The micro plastic nets can be lent free of charge by the Kieler Forschungswerkstatt. Photo/Copyright: Kiel Research Workshop

As plastic pirates, children and teens have been supporting research on plastic waste deposits on and in German rivers since 2016. In the period 2020/2021, the Citizen Science Project of the Kieler Forschungswerkstatt, which is funded by the BMBF in Germany, will for the first time also take place in Portugal and Slovenia. Copyright: BMBF/Science Year 2016*17

Further information can be found on the website of the Kieler Forschungswerkstatt.