Trash Investigation: at the origins of aquatic waste

If you thought that marine litter were the result of holiday-makers’ incivility, be ready to be surprised. At the end of 3 years of investigation, the provenance of waste in the Ocean has finally been revealed by the Riverine Input brigade. Immerse yourself in their investigation inspired by real facts and spiced up with imagined elements. #TrashInvestigation

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The genesis of the investigation

The Riverine Input squad of Surfrider Foundation Europe has led a 3 years project  both substantial and innovative in order to highlight the source of aquatic waste. For this, a scientific protocol of quantification and identification of marine litter at watershed scale (l’Adour, in France) has been privileged. Supported by the Water Program of HSBC, the project has helped to solve the mystery on the origin of waste into the sea.

A dip in troubled waters with the Riverine Input brigade

We have chosen to introduce you the conclusions of this project under the original format of a police investigation mixing reality and fiction, because we have lived this scientific journey a little like true detectives!


Discover the exclusive investigation…

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A lack of evidence

The theme of waste present in the river was previously a blurry and complex subject that few people dared to study. However, many said that there was a correlation between rivers and the Ocean, but a lack of evidence did not conclusively prove this relationship. Our Riverine Input team wanted to demonstrate that this link was real. For this, a documentary research was first carried out using archives and elements of investigation from the water and aquatic environments police.

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Key testimonies

Then, the investigators interviewed key witnesses, who revealed that nearly 8 million tonnes of waste were annually arriving in the Ocean. According to their statements, which have been confirmed by similar surveys, the majority of the waste (80%) originates from the continent. The flair of our Riverine Input squad seemed infallible, the role of rivers in the provenance of marine litter was more and more concrete…

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The tracks remain open

The investigation similar to a detective novel was ongoing, always more intense. As the course progresses, new indices and especially new suspects appeared. Thus, as a result of months of data collection, analysis and meetings with specialists, the brigade has not been able to put under the bars the perpetrators of the crimes. The situation was much more complex than expected…

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Reviewed in details, the evidences collected during the investigation have permitted to understand how rivers could be one of the reasons for the presence of waste on beaches. Therefore, one of the main conclusions is that rivers are major vectors of marine litter. But how did the waste arrive there? Who are the culprits? What can we do to stop these crimes? One way to answer these questions: the report of the case. With the Riverine Input squad the mystery did not remain entire for a long time.

Laura Anty, Environmental Writer