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Credit: Jonathan Green & GCT

South West survey to boost Pacific plastic project

People in the South West of England can help researchers tackle plastic pollution locally – and thousands of miles away – by completing a short survey.

As part of an ambitious project to cut pollution in the Galapagos Islands and wider Eastern Tropical Pacific, University of Exeter researchers will study public attitudes in the South West and in coastal areas of Peru and Ecuador.

By comparing the responses, the team hope to identify common attitudes and external factors that encourage people to reduce their plastic waste.

Designed alongside the Galapagos Conservation Trust – a partner in the Pacific Plastics: Science to Solutions (PPSS) project – the UK part of the survey is open to people living in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.

"Just like the South West of England, coastal communities in Peru and Ecuador rely heavily on fishing and tourism," said Professor Joanne Smith, of the University of Exeter.

"As a result, the negative impacts of plastic pollution are likely to have a larger impact on these communities.

"It is useful to understand what factors generally lead people to use and throw away less plastic.

"If we know what changes people's behaviour – and what doesn't – we can design more effective interventions to reduce plastic pollution."

Professor Smith said knowledge of the problem is often assumed seen as the key to tackling it, but in fact multiple "barriers" may prevent people from acting on their good intentions.

"We are really trying to understand the factors that enable people to change their behaviour," she said.

"People know plastic is a problem but many feel that they, as an individual, can't do anything about it."

The survey will be led by Abigail Poh, a student on the MSc in Social and Organisational Psychology at Exeter.

"By understanding public perceptions of plastic pollution in a variety of countries we hope that this study will inform campaigns to reduce plastic pollution," Poh said.

PPSS project officer Jessica Howard, of the Galapagos Conservation Trust, said: "Conservation needs local communities. Understanding the perspective of people on the ground is the crucial first step in designing solutions that will work.

"This survey will lay the groundwork for future upstream interventions that support the transition towards a circular economy for plastics."

The complete the survey, please visit:

Date: 23 March 2022

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