Horton, A. A.; Svendsen, C.; Williams, R.; Spurgeon, D.; Lahive, E.

Microplastics in sediments of the River Thames Basin, UK

This dataset provides numbers and types of plastic particles extracted from sediment samples of three tributaries of the river Thames: the River Leach, the River Lambourn and The Cut. These rivers are regularly monitored for a range of water quality and biological characteristics as part of the ongoing CEH Thames initiative project. Four sampling sites were selected based on the average percentage of effluent present in the river and population equivalent density to represent scenarios ranging from low sewage input and population equivalent density (Leach and Lanbourn) through an intermediate site (the Cut) to a site with high sewage input and population equivalent density (also in the Cut). The samples were collected between late August and early September 2014.
The data provides information on the site characteristics, dry weight of sediment analysed (in grams), number of microplastic particles extracted and characteristics of particles (including shape, colour and polymer type). Types of polymers identified include: polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate, nylon and polyester.

Publication date: 2017-04-26

Get the data

This dataset is made available under the terms of the Open Government Licence

Format of the dataset : Comma-separated values (CSV)

You must cite: Horton, A. A.; Svendsen, C.; Williams, R.; Spurgeon, D.; Lahive, E. (2017). Microplastics in sediments of the River Thames Basin, UK. NERC Environmental Information Data Centre. https://doi.org/10.5285/93837492-408f-4349-8dcd-ee833e84e47e


© Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (Natural Environment Research Council)


Study area
Temporal extent
2014-08-28    to    2014-09-03

Supplemental information

Other useful information regarding this dataset:

Horton, A. A., Svendsen, C., Williams, R. J., Spurgeon, D. J., & Lahive, E. (2017). Large microplastic particles in sediments of tributaries of the River Thames, UK - Abundance, sources and methods for effective quantification. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 114(1), 218-226.

Provenance & quality

The average percentage effluent present in the river was estimated using the Low Flows 2000 (LF2000) WQX (Water Quality eXtension) model. The population equivalent density was calculated using population within the catchment area (of known area) served by the upstream sewage treatment works. This site characteristic data is given in the datasheet ThamesMicroplastics_SamplingLocations.
Four replicate sediment samples were taken at each site using a stainless steel scoop, collected into a 1 L glass jar. In the laboratory the 1 L sediment samples were wet-sieved and sediment in the size ranges 1-2 mm and 2-4 mm was retained for further analysis. Microplastic particles were extracted using a number of steps, consisting of manual sorting and density separation with zinc chloride solution (1.7-1.8 kg/L). Each sample comprised a different volume and weight following size-sieving, therefore the inclusion of dry weight data allows for the conversion of total microplastic particles into a concentration (e.g. particles/kg dry sediment) for comparability between samples (ThamesMicroplastics_NumberOfParticles).
A subsample (20%) of particles were characterised by type and colour, with composition determined using Raman spectroscopy (ThamesMicroplastics_ParticleCharacteristics). Further details on the methods used for particle extraction and characterisation are available in the supporting information.

Correspondence/contact details

Dr. Alice Horton
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
CEH Maclean Building, Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford
OX10 8BB


Horton, A. A.
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Svendsen, C.
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Williams, R.
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Spurgeon, D.
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Lahive, E.
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Other contacts

Environmental Information Data Centre
NERC Environmental Information Data Centre


Spatial representation type
Tabular (text)
Spatial reference system
OSGB 1936 / British National Grid


Topic categories
Environment , Inland Waters , Utilities / Communication
Freshwater,  Microplastics,  nylon,  Plastic,  Pollution,  Pollution polyester,  polyethylene terephthalate,  polyethylenr,  polypropylene,,  polystyrene,  polyvinyl chloride,  Raman,  Sediment
Environmental Monitoring Facilities