Hundreds of volunteers helped Thames21 at eight events the charity put on for the Great British Spring Clean last weekend, starting with 50 people who turned out at Rainham Marshes, in Thurrock, on Friday.
The volunteers at the site in Purfleet included Betsy Basis, the chief operating officer of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency.
Volunteers picked up enough rubbish coming off the Thames and becoming caught in the marshes to fill a 14ft skip with bin bags.
Items included broccoli wrapped in plastic, a cycle inner tube, confectionary wrappers and polystyrene.
Richard McIlwain, Deputy Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy, which set up the Great British Spring Clean campaign, also volunteered.
He reflected: “This was another brilliantly professional but fun event from the team at Thames21 and my thanks to everyone who planned and delivered this event – and to those involved in events across the weekend.
“I really enjoyed getting stuck in and loved chatting about the issues we face with EA, Defra and RSPB staff and Thames21’s volunteers.
“The amount of plastic we found was astonishing. We must remember – this is less about clearing up and more about growing an army of people drawn from all walks of life who get the message and demand change alongside us.”
Volunteers also counted 169 single use plastic bottles in an area 30metres by 30metres, to feed into Thames21’s Thames River Watch project research, which uses citizen scientist volunteers to assess the different types of litter along the Thames foreshore.
The marshes are on the RSPB reserve and are home to a huge variety of wildlife and rubbish is largely washed up by the tide.
The clean up resulted in Thames21 featuring in The Daily Mail’s article on Monday, “Throwaway Britain: How plastic bottles blight the UK’s river banks and beauty spots as volunteers spend hours clearing them up”.
Also featuring in this was Saturday’s event at the Welsh Harp Reservoir on Neasden Recreation Ground in Brent, the first time Thames21 has led a community clean up on this site.
Friday’s clean up, which included a group of youngsters from South Essex College, was the start of the Lower Mardyke Catchment project, in which Thames21 is involved.
The clean up was led by Emma Harrington, Thames21’s Development Manager. She put on a total of four in the Thurrock area over the weekend – one in Tilbury starting at the World’s End Pub on Saturday and two on Sunday, at Grays Beach in the morning and near the Wharf Hotel, in Grays, in the afternoon.
Thames21’s other community events took place at Twin Tumps Way, Thamesmead on Saturday, where 19 bags were removed. Volunteers also tidied the hedging and bushes along the pathway making it much neater.
On Sunday at Silk Stream Park, Edgware, and Pitshanger Park, Ealing, 22 people collected 30 bags worth of rubbish including bits of old tent, a chair and a hosepipe.
Thames21 runs nearly 500 community volunteer events per year, from litter clearance and collecting data to carrying out environmental enhancements such as hedge laying and installing reedbeds.
Anyone who wants to get involved in making a difference to their community a better place, visit our events page and search for an event in your area.