Can you help establish the link between ocean and river plastic?

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 9 April 2018

Can you join us in Slough on April 19th?

Members of the public are being urged to join MCS and Thames21 staff and volunteers in Slough to help investigate the link between river and marine litter.

© Thames 21

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.

Tor Harris,
Waitrose Head of Responsible Sourcing and Sustainability

The river clean at Slough is part of a series of joint events between the UK’s leading marine charity, and prominent waterways charity Thames21 and is part of the Waitrose Beach and River Clean-up series.

Waitrose has donated £500,000 from its carrier bag funds to MCS allowing the charity to put on more clean-ups and mobilise larger numbers of volunteers than ever before in the fight back against the rising tide of plastic litter on our beaches and now in rivers, too.

Support from Waitrose has allowed the charity to start working with Thames21 on a series of 20 river cleans using a similar recording system it uses at its beach cleans.

So far, almost 700 beach cleans have taken place involving over 10,000 volunteers.

Members of the public are being invited to join staff from Waitrose Head Office in Bracknell and teams from MCS and Thames21 for a river clean starting at The Jubilee River Riverside Centre, Slough Road, Slough SL1 2BP, April 19th at 11am.

Thames21 works with communities to shape and deliver sustainable environmental change for rivers, with the ultimate vision of putting healthy rivers at the heart of community life.

MCS has been recording beach litter from around the UK for almost 25 years. The data collected has been instrumental in the introduction of the 5p carrier bag charge, a ban on microbeads and the announcements of the introduction of deposit return schemes in Scotland and England.

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. MCS says that recording the types of litter found in certain tributaries of the country’s most iconic river – the Thames – will give both organisations a more complete picture of source to sea journey of litter and support action to eliminate plastic ending up in our rivers and oceans.

Lauren Eyles, MCS Beachwatch Manager says the introduction of river cleans will support the growth of the MCS’ 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 funded by Waitrose, 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, customers who will be encouraged to take part along with the wider public.”

MCS will be collating the data collected from joint river clean events and will use it as a pilot study to look at comparisons with beach litter data. It’s already known that 80% of ocean plastic comes from land and enters the sea via our rivers.

“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,” said Debbie Leach, CEO of Thames21. “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 4500 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.”

Sign up to the river clean event in Slough here

Do you want to help stop the plastic tide? We are currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.

Actions you can take

  1. Help us stop the plastic tide
  2. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019

Did you know?…

UK Seas provide us with resources from fish to renewable marine energy

Every day millions of microplastics enter the sea from personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes

Plastic has been found in the stomachs of almost all marine species including fish, birds, whales, dolphins, seals and turtles