Did you know we clean rivers too?

Date posted: 24 August 2018

Waitrose has donated £500,000 from its carrier bag funds to MCS allowing us to put on more beach clean-ups and mobilise larger numbers of volunteers than ever before. And it’s led to a partnership with river charity Thames21 to investigate the link between river rubbish and beach litter

River clean Thames21
© Thames21
River clean Thames21
© Thames21

MCS has been working with Waitrose since last summer on the Waitrose Beach and River Clean-Up series. The financial support from their carrier bag cash has allowed us to extend our cleaning to river banks too. Thames21 will deliver cleans on our behalf along the Thames corridor including at Maidenhead, Thame, Staines and Reading between March and June. Thames21 works to improve rivers, canals, ponds and lakes for people and wildlife across Greater London.

We already know that 80% of ocean plastic comes from land and enters the sea via our rivers. Rivers are being harmed by a variety of different pollutants, including large amounts of plastic. The litter found in the UK’s rivers eventually ends up in our coastal waters. By recording the types of litter found in certain tributaries of the country’s most iconic river, we’ll get a more complete picture of the source to sea journey of litter. If we know where it comes from, we can work to stop it getting there in the first place.

Lauren Eyles, MCS Beachwatch Manager says the introduction of river cleans will support the growth of the MCS’s beach clean programme, which leads the way in collecting coastal litter data:

“These cleans, along the Thames corridor this spring and summer as part of our Waitrose Beach and River Clean project, will give us a greater opportunity to increase our understanding of the link between inland behaviour and litter on our beaches. We think it will have a positive impact on individual behaviour of Waitrose staff and customers who will be encouraged to take part along with the wider public.”

Debbie Leach, CEO of Thames21 says:

“Rivers are undeniably a conduit for plastic and other litter to enter the marine environment, yet we need to better understand how this is happening. Once the relationship between how litter moves from the land into our rivers and seas is more deeply understood, we can then identify ways to prevent it. Thanks to data collected from our Thames River Watch citizen science programme, we are already documenting the scale of the problem on the Thames. Last year, we found 4,500 wet wipes in just one spot of the Thames foreshore in a single day, making it the highest number of wet wipes ever recorded in one place. By collaborating with MCS, we are building a clearer picture on the links between river litter and marine litter and collectively helping to solve one of the most pressing issues our rivers and oceans face today.”

Tor Harris, Head of Responsible Sourcing and Sustainability at Waitrose, said:

“Supporting the Marine Conservation Society’s beach and river cleans is one of many ways we are trying to help the environment. We’ve committed to making all our own-label packaging widely recyclable (using the widely recycled logo), reusable or home compostable by 2025. From September 2018 we will also stop selling packs of plastic straws. We were the first supermarket to stop selling products containing microbeads and exclusively sell paper-stem cotton buds. We’re excited for as many people as possible to join us in cleaning our local rivers to improve them for wildlife and all of us.” MCS will collate the data from the 20 planned events and use it as a pilot study to look at comparisons with beach litter data.

Actions you can take

  1. Help us stop the plastic tide
  2. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019
  3. Get involved in the 'Waitrose Beach & River Clean-up'

Did you know?…

To date, our beach cleans have removed over 11 million pieces of litter

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is thought to be 6 times the size of the UK

Since the carrier bag charge came in across the UK, the Great British Beach Clean has recorded almost 50% fewer bags on beaches