New research will track how tiny plastic particles from tyres, polyester clothing and fishing gear enter the oceans and affect marine life.

The Government has pledged £200,000 for scientists at the University of Plymouth to research how the particles known as ‘microplastics’ end up in the seas.

The project comes after the introduction of a ban on miniature plastic beads or 'microbeads' in care products, where the plastics can be washed down the drain.

Small plastic particles, including from car tyre friction on roads or fibres from synthetic clothes released during washing, have been found in places as remote as the Arctic sea ice.

It's thought one wash load of acrylic clothes can release 700,000 microfibres into the ocean. Credit: PA

The impact of plastic pollution on our oceans is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our generation.

Therese Coffey MP, Environment Minister

The project is being led by Professor Richard Thompson

Recent estimates in Norway and Sweden have suggested that particles of tyre and debris from the road surface could be a substantial source.

Professor Richard Thompson, University of Plymouth

Estimated tonnes of plastic created by tyres in one year


Microfibres released into the ocean by a single wash load of acrylic clothing

Researchers and politicians alike say something must be done about the escalating problem of plastic pollution. Credit: ITV West Country

The 11-month project will build on research already underway, with scientists estimating that tyres contribute 270,000 tonnes of plastics per year while a single wash load of acrylic clothing could release more than 700,000 microfibres into the ocean.