Film star Bonnie Wright is joining scientists and campaigners to launch a nationwide survey of plastic pollution in UK rivers.
The actress, who plays Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter film series, is joining Greenpeace volunteers and scientists to collect water samples from three points along the River Wye.
The samples will be analysed by the University of Exeter and compared with other samples collected from major rivers across the UK to inform a report on the levels of small pieces of plastic pollution known as “microplastics”.
Environmentalists warn that these tiny plastic particles, which come from degraded plastics and synthetic clothing, can be toxic to wildlife and make up a vast proportion of the plastics that flow from rivers into the seas.
Greenpeace is calling on the Government to tackle the problem of plastic pollution by setting legally-binding targets in the forthcoming Environment Bill to phase out single-use plastics.
The environmental group is also urging the Government to create an independent environmental watchdog to ensure green targets are met.
Ms Wright said: “I was shocked to learn that most of the plastic that I’ve ever used is still somewhere here on Earth.
“And yet every year we just keep producing more and more, at a rate that isn’t sustainable, and there’s nowhere for it all to go.
“It’s killing wildlife and there are growing concerns that it may be affecting our health – so we’re here today to urge the UK Government to take action: to set targets to phase out single-use plastics.”
Kirsten Thompson, from University of Exeter, said there were lots of studies on how much plastic there was in the seas but few so far had investigated the amount and types of plastic carried in rivers.
She said it was hoped the research would help uncover where the plastic was coming from and what impact it was having on creatures such as otters, kingfishers and water voles.
Greenpeace UK plastics campaigner Fiona Nicholls said: “More frightening facts seem to emerge about plastic pollution every month. It’s in our water, our food, the air; it’s polluting the most remote parts of our planet.
“But the scariest fact is that, if we carry on with business as usual, plastic production is set to quadruple by 2050. It’s clear our rivers and oceans simply can’t stomach this.
“That’s why Greenpeace is urging the Government to ensure that their new Environment Bill sets specific targets for reducing the amount of throwaway plastic being made.”