Staffs student joins global fight against plastic pollution

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A Staffordshire University student plans to help recovery efforts in Sri Lanka after millions of plastic pellets washed up on its shoreline.

Hannah Parkin never expected to go to university but after finding a passion for forensics she is taking her research skills across the world.

She explained: “I didn’t do well in my GCSEs, so I’d gone back to college to get my Science and it was in college that I did Applied Science and Forensics and that’s where it all started.”

Hannah has just completed a BSc (Hons) Forensic Investigation at Staffordshire University and is now staying on to top-up to an MSci.

“In my first year I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be here because I don’t feel I’m that academic. I voiced this with the lecturers and they gave me a preview of the modules and a lot of support. It made me feel like it was worth staying because the lecturers cared so much.” Hannah said.

“I’m dyslexic so I’m a very practical person, I can’t just sit and write which has gone really well with this course because for most of the modules you are doing something practical in the lab.”

During her studies, Hannah was taught by world-leading microplastics expert Claire Gwinnett and is using her new-found knowledge to join the fight against plastic pollution herself.

For her final year project, Hannah investigated which synthetic clothes shed the most fibres when washed and found that loose weave garments, like jumpers, were the worst culprits whereas sportswear was the most environmentally friendly.

As part of her master’s studies, Hannah will fly out to Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka in January to complete a six-month placement researching the impact of plastic waste. It follows a cargo ship catching fire and sinking off the coast of Colombo in May, releasing tonnes of small plastic pellets, known as nurdles, into the ocean.

Hannah said: “When I get there, the clean-up by the authorities will be complete so I want to analyse the beach sediment and sea sediment to see if all of the microplastic pellets have actually been collected.

“I’m so excited. Because of COVID and not being able to do much, to actually leave the UK to go somewhere nice and sunny but also contribute to research out there will be amazing.”

Hannah now hopes that her experience might inspire others to consider university as a realistic option and shared her advice for prospective students.

She added: “There are so many opportunities to get into university even if you haven't done well in high school. Coming to university can be daunting when you don't know what to expect but you will surprise yourself. When you engage with the course, you start to motivate yourself because of the content you enjoy and start doing better."

Hear more from Hannah on Staffordshire Unversity's YouTube Channel.

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Amy Platts

Media Communications Officer

t: 01782 292702

07799 341911


Staffordshire University is the Connected University; connected to the needs of students, academic partners, business and society. Our main city campus in Stoke-on-Trent features excellent learning and teaching facilities and good transport links. We have specialist Centres of Excellence in Healthcare Education at Stafford and Shrewsbury.  

We were recognised with a Gold award in the 2019 Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) for delivering consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for students.  

We were shortlisted for University of the Year at the THE Awards 2020 and were named ‘Midlands University of the Year’ at the Midlands Business Awards 2020. 
Staffordshire University has signed up to the Civic University Agreement, pledging to play a leading role in improving the regional economy and enhancing quality of life in local communities. We were recognised in the top 15 for social inclusion in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021. We aim to be a leading university for digital technologies building on our proud computing heritage and in 2019 launched Staffordshire University London’s Digital Institute which is committed to preparing students for careers in new and emerging tech industries. 

We are a Top 250 Young University (Times Higher Education Young University Rankings 2020) and are connected globally, with more than 11,000 people studying Staffordshire University degrees overseas.