Waterways and wellbeing charity Canal & River Trust is calling on people across England and Wales to help stop half a million pieces of plastic reaching the ocean by taking its Plastics Challenge this summer.
The charity, which usually relies heavily on its army of volunteers to help clear the waterways of plastic and litter, has had to put volunteering activity on hold since mid-March due to Coronavirus. During this time, the need for people to 'stay local' has in some areas seen an increase in the number of people using their nearby towpath and the litter and plastic they sometimes leave behind.
Following the launch of its Plastics Challenge last year, Canal & River Trust volunteers have donated more than 10,000 hours a month to tackle the plastics problem. This has resulted in a 30% reduction in litter around its waterways.
Increase In Plastic
Peter Birch, National Environmental Policy Advisor at Canal & River Trust, said, "Our canals are great on-the-doorstep places for people to enjoy. However, the unintended consequence is that they can be highways to the ocean taking 500,000 pieces of carelessly discarded plastic there each year.
"Thanks to the efforts of individual visitors, local communities and volunteers, we had seen great gains prior to lockdown. However, this trend could have reversed as our volunteers have been required to stay away and the use of towpaths has increased in many urban residential areas as people take their daily exercise."
Every year, 14 million pieces of plastic end up in and around canals and rivers. These plastic bottles, food wrappers, bags and straws can be harmful for the fish, swans, ducks and birds that make the canals their home. It's an ongoing issue and one that the charity's volunteers help to keep on top of.
Whilst enjoying local canals and rivers, the charity is asking visitors to carry out a short litter pick - being careful to observe all government guidelines around Coronavirus, local travel and social distancing. If everyone who visits a local canal or river picks up just one piece of plastic, they'd be clear within a year.
The Canal & River Trust has created a handy guide to help everyone take part in the Plastics Challenge safely. It shares helpful tips such as wearing gloves or using litter pickers and it highlights key things to be aware of when cleaning up along the waterway.
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