Every year an estimated 14 million pieces of plastic end up in and around our canals and rivers. These plastic bottles, food wrappers and bags can harm the fish, swans and other wildlife that make the canals their home.
Sadly we can’t clear all of this up, so enough plastic to fill 20,000 bin bags is washed from our waterways out into the ocean each year.
Get active to fight plastic
If everyone who visited one of our canals or rivers picked up just one piece of plastic, the water and towpaths would be clear within a year.
So, we’re asking if you can do a litter pick along a towpath near you. You’ll need to read our safety tips before you set off, which are also included in our free downloadable guide below.
Join our Plastics Challenge and make a global difference in your local community.
I use my local canal every day to exercise and walk with my children. It’s important for it to be plastic and pollution-free, for our enjoyment and for wildlife. Saira Khan
An underwater problem
You’d be surprised to discover what’s under the surface of our canals and rivers. From shopping trolleys to traffic cones, there’s a lot of litter.
Rubbish underwater can be dangerous for wildlife, as well as for anglers and people using boats and canoes.
We rely heavily on our army of volunteers to clear up plastic waste. Before the coronavirus lockdown began, they were collectively donating over 10,000 hours each month to remove plastics and litter from our waterways.
The pandemic meant that all the clean-up activity carried out by our volunteers had to be suspended.
Don’t let it go to waste
The amount of plastic and litter in our waterways has dropped by 30% in the last year. This is thanks to our volunteers and everyone who’s already joined in with our Plastics Challenge.
Without your help, this fantastic effort could now go to waste. As lockdown restrictions ease and more of us return to enjoy our local canal or river, we urgently need to keep up the fight against plastic.
Join our Plastics Challenge and help tackle the global plastics crisis by acting locally today.
Ten ways to reduce plastic in our canals
Thanks to everyone who’s already joined our Plastics Challenge, the amount of plastic and litter in our canals and rivers dropped by 30% in the last year. But without your help, this fantastic effort could now go to waste.
As more people return to enjoying their local waterways over the summer, we urgently need to keep up the fight against plastic.
Our committed volunteers spend hours out on the towpaths collecting litter, while our operational teams have to bring in equipment to clear sunken rubbish that has been dumped in the water.
It costs us around £1 million each year to deal with rubbish, and we’re not able to collect all of it.
Some of the plastic that gets thrown into our canals and rivers will end up drifting out into the oceans and contributing to the global plastics crisis.
Although it seems like an enormous problem to solve, there are many things you can do at home and in your local area that will help.
Make a difference today
Here are some super easy ways to start reducing the plastic waste you generate and the amount that enters our waterways.
Don’t buy bottled water or hot drinks in disposable cups
Disposable cups may look and feel like cardboard, but they have a thin plastic lining to keep the liquid inside. To avoid these single-use containers, make sure you have a refillable bottle, flask or travel mug with you when you’re out and about.
Use your own shopping bags
Remember to take your own reusable bags every time you go shopping so that you don’t have to buy a plastic bag. There are plenty of options made from strong natural materials, such as jute and cotton.
Don’t buy anything glittery
These days glitter is used in an enormous range of products, from clothing to shower gel. Most glitter is made from plastic and the small size of its particles makes it hard to filter out of wastewater, meaning it becomes a potential ecological hazard in our canals, rivers and oceans.
Boaters: separate your recyclables and make use of recycling facilities
Most of the boaters’ bins on our canals and rivers only accept bagged household rubbish, but we have an increasing number of recycling points. By using these points and separating your recycling from your general rubbish, you can help us avoid paying landfill tax.
As a charity this is very important to us. We can put these savings towards looking after our waterways.
Please use the points responsibly and don’t add anything that can’t be recycled. Even putting one small bag of general rubbish into the recycling bins means we’ll be taxed.
Choose glass or cans over plastic
Help to reduce the amount of plastic in circulation by opting for glass or cans where possible when you’re buying things. Glass and cans get recycled back into more glass and cans, while plastic bottles generally get reprocessed into something else.
This just creates more opportunities for bits of plastic to enter our environment and cause damage.
Avoid using cling film and foil
Aluminium foil and cling film use a lot of resources to produce and cling film can’t be recycled. When packing your lunch to take to work or on a picnic, put it in re-useable containers or use eco-friendly cling film alternatives, such as beeswax wraps.
Store your rubbish securely
When you’re out for a waterside walk, cycle or boat trip, keep a tight hold of your rubbish until you reach a bin, so that it doesn’t get blown into the water. Make sure all your rubbish bags are tied securely, placed right inside the bin and that any bin lids are closed.
This helps to stop animals, like foxes and rats, from pulling rubbish out of the bin and making a mess.
Boaters: choose natural fenders
Instead of using plastic fenders or tyres on your boat, choose ones made of natural rope. Make sure they’re appropriately secured so that they don’t drop off and become another piece of rubbish in the water.
Show your clothes some love
Most new clothes are made of materials that contain plastic, such as polyester and nylon. This means that they shed tiny plastic fibres as you wear them and when they’re washed, especially in the first few washes.
These particles find their way through water treatment plants and end up in the rivers and oceans. To combat this, try to look after and repair your clothes, so that they last longer. When you do buy new clothes, choose natural materials, such as cotton, linen, bamboo and hemp.
Join our Plastics Challenge and plan a litter pick
Plan a walk or a run that includes some time spent collecting litter along a canal or river. All you need is a pair of gloves and a collection bag. If you find it uncomfortable or difficult to bend down, you can buy a litter picker tool with a long handle for around £5 to £10.
Videos by Bioplastics News Chief Editor
Advantages and Disadvantages of PLA