More than 4,000 plastic bottles removed from River Thames in one afternoon


Big Bottle Count September 2017
Volunteers participate in the Big Bottle Count at Hammersmith, one of 19 sites surveyed in the event on September 2, 2017

More than 4,000 plastic bottles were removed from the River Thames last Saturday as part of Thames21’s annual Big Bottle Count. 

Approximately 200 Londoners signed up to take part in this year’s Big Bottle Count across 19 Thames sites,  coordinated by our Thames River Watch citizen science programme. This year the Big Bottle Count was run jointly with the #OneLess campaign to reduce London’s reliance on single-use water bottles.

Forty per cent of the 4,100  plastic  bottles found were water bottles, further evidence of the huge impact that bottled water has  on London’s river.

The total included  1,600 bottles from Concrete Barges, Rainham. Without the regular efforts of Thames River Watch volunteers, the total would likely have been far higher, said AJ McConville, Thames River Watch’s programme coordinator.

“Since we started counting bottles on the Thames in April 2016, we have recorded and removed more than 18,000 bottles,” he explained. “There is evidence that this high removal rate is starting to have an impact on the number of bottles in the river, with most litter sites showing drops in bottle numbers when compared to last year.

“Theoretically this means it will be easier to get a sense of how many new bottles are regularly being added to the river system.” 

In addition to the bottles collected, volunteers also removed about 60 bags of general litter.

The event also attracted considerable media attention, with a combined media reach of more than nine million over the past week, with Sky News showing a pre-recorded interview with Thames21’s deputy chief executive Chris Coode on the story every hour from early Saturday as well as reporting live on the story from Hammersmith, where London Live also conducted interviews and reported on the event.

Not only are there 4,000 fewer plastic bottles to pollute the Thames after the weekend’s efforts, but this year many of these will be recycled because of a deal with social enterprises Terracycle and Riz Board Shorts

 The #OneLess coalition/campaign was formed last year in response to the marine plastic crisis and focuses on behaviour and infrastructure change to reduce Londoners’ dependence on single use water bottles and to encourage a refill revolution.

Chris Coode talks about the plastic problem on London’s rivers to Sky News