Sources, pathways and sinks of litter within riverine and marine environments

  • Sarah L. Simmons

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This research was developed as one of the first studies to investigate riverine litter problems. Baseline assessment methods were formulated to define the scope and nature of this pollution form. Assessments were carried out in three catchments; the Taff, East Lyn and Avill. The Taff was found to be atypical regarding the extent of the litter. In all catchments plastic sheeting formed the principal litter component.

    The study also included an examination of the factors influencing the sources, pathways and sinks riverine litter pollution. These factors were drawn together through the development of a research model. Assessments of two quantifiable sources, sewage inputs through Storm Water Overflows (SWOs) and fly-tipping wastes, were undertaken. Greatest inputs of sewage-derived solids were introduced to the river through malfunctioning SWOs, the most numerous single component being sanitary towels. Whilst sewage-derived material constituted approximately 23% of all items on the River Taff, large quantities of waste, especially plastic sheeting, originated from fly-tipping sites.

    Mobility of litter once introduced to the system was greatly dependent on river flow regimes. Some litter types, e.g. plastic sheeting, were more mobile than others and tended, after floods, to be stranded on vegetation.

    Due to its high profile within the catchments and expected longevity, plastic sheeting was chosen for river-bank degradation trials. Results indicated that photodegradation occurred within samples, but only in the initial exposure period and that any further breakdown was likely to result from physical abrasion.

    Marine areas were considered to be potential sinks for riverine litter, especially its more mobile components. An alternative sink for certain litter types such as cloth might be incorporation into the river-bank due to an ability to aggregate soil/sediment particles.
    Date of AwardNov 1993
    Original languageEnglish


    • Water
    • Pollution

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