The biggest ever community plastic clean-up of the River Thames and its tributaries is taking place from 17 September 2022 in an event called Plasticblitz, says UK environmental charity Thames21.
In partnership with community organisation Rotary, Thames 21 will lead 40 groups throughout the Thames Valley catchment to clear litter - from Gloucestershire in south-western England, to Rainham in east London. Over a month, these teams will also record data on the types of plastic litter they find, to evidence the types of litter entering the Thames.
This data will feed into an EU-wide Preventing Plastic Pollution project, which aims to understand and reduce the impacts of plastic pollution in river and marine environments via behaviour change, targeting hotspots and finding effective solutions. The first Thames Plasticblitz took place last year, and groups filled 139 bin-bags of plastic pollution, including a floating fake crocodile head, a large paddling pool and an R2-D2 Star Wars action figure.
"It is great that the Plasticblitz has brought community groups together back for the second year to raise awareness of the issue and help us gather vital evidence to push for change."
A total of 6,557 items of waste were removed from rivers and riverbanks; 72% of this waste was made of plastic. The worst offenders were drinks cans (941), plastic drinks bottles (819), cigarette stubs (616) and crisp packets (533).
Globally, much of the plastic found in our oceans enters via rivers, though data on litter in the freshwater environment is sparse compared to that in the marine environment. However, there is a growing body of evidence to show how bigger plastics are breaking down into microplastics and negatively impacting wildlife, nature and humans.
Debbie Leach, chief executive of Thames21, said, “Our rivers are being devastated by a variety of different pollutants, including run-off from road networks, sewage pollution and large quantities of plastic.
"Plastic litter has no place in our rivers or the natural environment, so it is great that the Plasticblitz has brought community groups together back for the second year to raise awareness of the issue and help us gather vital evidence to push for change. Pollution is a widespread problem and we must all act together to combat it.”
Phil Fletcher, district environmental officer at Rotary in the Thames Valley, said, “Cleaning the river and banks is not the prime objective in the river clean-ups carried out by Rotary Clubs, the main drive is to reduce the use of single-use packaging in the first place. We must create awareness of the problem in order to end the plastic soup that gets into our oceans.”