Partneriaeth Yr Wyddfa led by Awdurdod Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri has said that it "aims to increase public awareness of plastic pollution on the UK’s most visited mountain" and is considering the "practicalities" of introducing Plastic Free Areas in the National Park.
"Variable amounts of microplastic pollution" were identified in all the soil samples collected along the Llanberis path to the summit of Yr Wyddfa in April 2021, and analysed by CGG at its Geoscience Laboratories in the north for "microplastic quantification and identification".
A new, "innovative sample preparation and analysis workflow" was used for rapid, mass sample screening to identify high concentrations of microplastics "significantly faster than with existing manual and optical identification methods".
The workflow can be used to calculate the volume, size and shape of plastic particles within a sample.
The results were used to determine a Microplastic Pollution Index, that is designed to help organisations, local authorities, or government agencies identify areas of plastic leakage and wastage where microplastics may be entering the food chain or natural environment.
On Yr Wyddfa, the largest amounts of microplastics were observed where people congregate in large numbers. Microplastic particles constituted nearly 5% of the total sample collected at the summit. These were predominantly "small, highly-abraded particles" formed from the fragmentation of larger plastic material and fibers shed from clothing.
John Harold, Director of Snowdonia Society and Chair of Partneriaeth Yr Wyddfa said:
“These results are a stark reminder of how persistent plastic is when it gets into the environment. A huge amount of litter is cleared by staff and volunteers, but by no means all gets picked up. This work shows what happens when plastic is let loose in the soils and freshwater of our precious protected areas; it breaks into countless particles and we lose control of it. Once again this really highlights the need for us all to be extra careful when visiting protected areas,”