Pictures: Summit Foundation – Loris Theurillat

PLASTILAC is a research project aimed at quantifying the presence of micro-plastics in high-altitude Alpine lakes. Conducted since 2019 by the AQUALTI association on French territory, it aims to determine the intensity of atmospheric transfer of plastic particles in remote ecosystems that are a priori little affected by human activity.

In Switzerland, the presence of micro-plastics in Alpine lakes is still very poorly documented. However, these particles can have a major impact on aquatic ecosystems, which is why research projects are needed to quantify the extent of this atmospheric pollution in our mountains.

Since 2022, the Summit Foundation has been working with the AQUALTI association to extend the scope of the research carried out as part of PLASTILAC in Switzerland, in collaboration with the Université Savoie Mont-Blanc. The project involves not only a scientific approach, but also a major effort to raise awareness among the general public and schools. Ultimately, the scientific aspect will provide a better understanding of the transfer and accumulation mechanisms of micro-plastic particles in Alpine aquatic ecosystems.

As a follow-up to the major “Clean Mont-Blanc” project carried out in 2021, which detected traces of micro-plastics in the glacial streams of the massif, it has been decided to inaugurate the first PLASTILAC research session in 2022 at Lake Catogne, between Trient (VS) and Vallorcine (F). This first expedition was followed by further sampling in July 2023 at Bachalpsee, high above Grindelwald (BE).

During these expeditions, a multi-disciplinary team (researchers, engineers, divers, communicators, photographers) travels to a mountain lake to analyse the lake’s micro-plastic content. Some of the sampling is carried out by researchers on the surface waters, and second samples are taken by professional divers at the bottom of the lake, where sediments are collected.

In parallel with these sampling campaigns, AQUALTI and Summit Foundation met in May 2023 at the Emosson dam to carry out tests on a new probe developed by HEPIA. This device will provide invaluable information on altitude, pressure, depth, temperature, etc. for future expeditions.

Many thanks to the Sauvain-Petitpierre Foundation and the Swim For Good community, a project of the Rotary Club Montreux-Vevey, for their invaluable support for this research project.

Picture: Summit Foundation – Tanguy Bibus

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