Preventing Plastic Pollution in the Ouse & Adur

The project

Strandliners was also pleased to take part a Preventing Plastic Pollution (PPP) project with The Ouse & Adur Rivers Trust (OART). The PPP project was the first of its kind, recording environmental plastic pollution across river catchments in England and Northern France.

Ww linked with existing litter picking & environmental groups in the Ouse & Adur catchments, delivered training and organised riverside litter picks and surveys. 


60% to 80% of coastal plastic pollution has inland sources and rivers are a major pathway. If all plastic waste in the environment is picked, bagged and binned, little proactive mitigation is possible, whereas if the plastic pollution is identified and recorded, reduction strategies can be planned at local and national scales.

What did we do?

We visited different areas of the Ouse and Adur catchments, delivering presentations, followed by a litter-pick and survey. Survey areas focused on riparian green spaces next to the Sussex Ouse and Adur rivers and their tributaries. Habitats and river environments included shingle beach at the river mouth, urban saltmarsh and estuary, urban green space streams, headwater urban chalk streams, urban wet woodland, parkland and community playing fields adjoining waterways.

We removed 384.27 kg  waste from the environment
We identified and recorded over14,00 individual items
We cleaned almost 14 km of river bank

Brand audits provide the most data, as they look at the most polluting brands, the categories of the litter collected and the plastic polymers they are made from. Andy Dinsdale says, “The more we record what the pollution is, the better chance we have of reducing it at source. Effectively we are creating a data-rich picture of environmental plastic pollution around us. Amazingly, the work is fun and addictive, as well as adding a climate change perspective to everyone’s litter picking.”

What did we deliver?

Sometimes delayed by inclement weather and the difficulty finding additional sites with safe access to the river bank, Strandliners and OART delivered a full programme including:

  • 7 presentations at ‘hub’ locations 
  • 32 surveys at 13 sites, including 27 brand audits and advanced litter counts and 5 intermediate surveys
  • The Love our Ouse event 

Where did we work?

Ouse catchment: Newhaven, Lewes, Uckfield, Haywards Heath
Adur catchment: Lancing, Shoreham, Steyning, Burgess Hill, Hassocks

Who did we work with?

Shoreham Sea Scouts, OART River Rangers, Steyning Litter Pickers, Greener Steyning, Keep Lancing Lovely, Malling Litter Pickers, HKD Transition Town, Litter Free Lewes, Hassocks Parish Council, Friends of the Green Circle (Burgess Hill), Brighter Uckfield, Mid Sussex District Council, Sustainable Henfield, McColls Hassocks, Marine Conservation Society, OART volunteers, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency.

Stakeholders were engaged through a wide variety of media and events. These included in person workshops and training sessions, PPP project stalls & sign up sheets at local river/green/climate events, online Zoom feedback and troubleshooting meetings, articles in local media (page 12 here and here) regular social media posts on Facebook and Twitter, and email updates.


The aim was to motivate existing litter picking groups to invest more time and effort into surveying and recording their litter data, as well as encouraging new volunteers to carry on the project. While Strandliners is happy to support groups with recording and troubleshooting, some sort of legacy funding would have put additional resources into supporting groups following the end of the project. There is a Facebook support group in place.

What do people say about our events?

Quotes from recent participants include:
“The background information gives a rationale for it all.”
“The presentation gave a context (and lots of new information).”
“Made the business of ‘litter-picking’ into a far more important setting.”
“Very interested in the process of surveying/citizen science.”
“Excellent day, well-run, informative event, thank you.”
“This is not just a litter-pick, but an audit, ultimately aiming for change an industrial or legal level.”

What did we find?

Here is a summary of the data from the advanced litter count surveys.

Results of surveys led by Strandliners

We used the brand audit surveys to create pie charts, what we termed the ‘litter DNA’ of a site, so that we could compare areas and see how the proportions of the different categories change as we move upstream. We found that seeing the data presented in a more visual way helped engage more people to take part in the surveys. Where two surveys took place on the same site, an average was taken for the pie charts. The images show sites picked and our happy band of volunteers (even in the rain).

Ouse catchment

Newhaven, Tidemills
The River Ouse in Lewes by the Railway Land Nature Reserve
Banks of the River Ouse in Lewes (the kingfishers were an added bonus)
The River Uck (a tributary of the Ouse) at Uckfield,
Haywards Heath, Scrase Valley Country Park

Adur catchment

Our volunteers picked both sides of the river
Sorting the rubbish
Strandliners with Greener Steyning
Our first survey at Burgess Hill in the snow!
We looked for any litter that could blow or wash into the river or stream (just to the left of this image)

Comparing the two catchments

It is interesting how the ‘litter DNA’ as we have called it, varies across/between the catchments. Note the amount of fishing gear (shown in red) changes from the river mouth upstream, and where food packaging (orange) and household products (yellow) are a potential issue. The ‘other’ category (green) includes industrial items and small unidentifiable pieces. We found our pie charts an excellent way to engage people and inspire behavioural changes, including a local business. In the charts below the areas across both catchments can be compared.

You can download the report as a pdf here.