Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall backs new Thames21 campaign to investigate problem of single-use plastic glasses on Thames foreshore

Date of release: August 14 2017

A campaign to encourage pubs along the Thames to use more washable plastic glasses rather than single-use plastic glasses has been launched by Thames21, London’s leading waterways charity.

The Thames Friendly Pubs initiative has the backing of writer and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose recent work includes his War on Waste programmes for the BBC.

“Over the summer, thousands of single-use plastic beer glasses enter our rivers nationally – often detritus from riverside pubs,” said Hugh. “They endanger wildlife and the local environment and add to the global plastic crisis as they wash out to sea. The call from Thames21 for pubs to switch to washable, re-usable plastic glasses is bang on the money, and paves the way for Londoners to be able to enjoy a guilt-free pint by the river.”

A launch event, in the form of a foreshore clean-up, will take place at St Mary’s Church foreshore in Battersea at 2pm on August 17.

Thames21 wants to hear about pubs which are doing their bit for the river and wider oceans by reducing their plastic use – whether through glasses, straws or other means. It also wants to find out more about the barriers pubs face in making the move to reduce plastic.

At a recent clean up in Hammersmith, the pile of plastic cups was nearly as big as the one for plastic bottles

Data from the charity’s Thames River Watch citizen science programme shows that single-use plastic glasses are one of the top ten objects washed up on the Thames foreshore.

AJ McConville, the Thames River Watch programme coordinator, explains: “We understand that pubs face many pressures which may hinder them from reducing their plastic use. We also know that some pubs are taking steps to reduce plastic, and we’d love to hear more about them, as well as to have conversations with pubs about any barriers they may face.

“The data in our latest report to the end of 2016 shows that single-use drinking glasses are a significant problem in the river Thames. It is likely that thousands of them are washed up on the foreshore. Many more will have been washed out to sea.

“Our surveys in 2017 continue to show this as a significant problem. In recent weeks, we found 166 disposable glasses at just one area of foreshore in Battersea.

“There is usually a spike in numbers appearing over the summer, when the public are enjoying the weather and drinking on the riverside.”

Thames21 wants to work with riverside pubs and entertainment outlets to establish mutually beneficial systems to phase in sustainable alternatives” said Debbie Leach, Thames21 chief executive. “We need to understand the reasons for using single-use glasses and to work with pubs to address this issue. We’re hoping London pubs will help us and work together to encourage best practice, to look after the river we all love.”

“Ultimately, we are looking to work with the sector to develop a chain of Thames Friendly Pubs.”

The litter survey monitoring results, from November 2014-December 2016, can be found here.

The Thames River Watch project is funded by Tideway, the company building the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

John Sage, Tideway’s corporate responsibility manager, said: “While we are building London’s super sewer to tackle the problem of overflows into the River Thames, we welcome any work that improves the wider health of the river and people’s enjoyment of London’s iconic waterway. We wish Thames21 every success with the campaign to reduce the number of single use plastic glasses found on the foreshore.”