Volunteers count record 4,350 single-use plastic bottles in a day

The record number of single-use plastic bottles
The record number of single-use plastic bottles

By Ian Lamont, Communications Manager

A group of Thames21 volunteers has reset the record for the number of single-use plastic bottles found in one day by London’s leading waterways charity. 

A new Badged Group – trained by us to carry out clean-ups – counted 4,350 bottles, among many other items in a three-hour litter pick at Concrete Barges, Rainham on Saturday, November 25.

The previous record for the number found on a single site on a single day in a Thames21 activity was 1,300 in Thamemead in July, within a single Thames21 project, although 1,600 were found at the site as part of the wider Big Bottle Count campaign in September.

The total even surpasses the 4,000 bottles found across 19 sites on the Thames in one day by hundreds of citizen science volunteers during the Big Bottle Count, which was co-ordinated by our Thames River Watch project in conjunction with the Zoological Society of London’s #OneLess  campaign

At the site in Rainham, 35 volunteers spent the morning clearing not only the massive haul of bottles but about another 100 bags of rubbish at the site, next to the RSPB Marshes Nature Reserve. 

The rubbish included broken up cups and cotton bud sticks, large items such as an office chair, “For Sale” signs and a child’s tricycle.

Ilona Kastner at the event at Rainham
Ilona Kastner at the event at Rainham

The clean up was led by one of our Badged Groups who have completed our NCFE accredited  Leading a Waterway Clean-up training course and can carry out their own events. They are given continuous help and support by Thames21 and on this occasion Emma Harrington, our volunteering manager, was on hand and provided the equipment they would need.

The joint leaders of the group were Ilona Kastner and Steve Catchpole, while the site was originally brought to Thames21’s attention by Clive Webster, a Thames River Warden who, this time last year, wrote a blog urging Thurrock Council to take the lead in keeping litter out of the Thames in that area.

Ilona, who moved from Scotland in August, took part in this year’s Big Bottle Count in September at the Concrete Barges and from there was inspired to take Thames21’s training, alongside Steve, who has also led events in Grays and was instrumental in jointly leading last Saturday’s event, she said.

“I was shocked by the amount of litter that we gathered in September,” said Ilona. “I decided to sign up for training. I met Steve again at the training and told him what I had seen at the concrete barges and we decided to do an event at the site.”

This clean-up involved not only the Concrete Barges site but paths close by, resulting in the larger number of bottles found.

“For whatever reason it was really easy to find people to volunteer,” she added. “We intend to keep observing the site. There is a big tide due soon. We want to do another event on January 13 and then make it monthly and feed in the results to Thames21 who are doing amazing work.”

Ilona moved in August from Scotland so she could become involved more in affecting change. “In Scotland I was immersed in great landscape. When I came to London it was a bit of a culture shock,. I wanted to come to somewhere I  could help make change happen.” 

Commenting on collecting a record number of bottles, she added: “It’s amazing isn’t it? You could say it ‘what a big success’ but also it is so sad. Where are all these bottles coming from and how to they end up there? It seems to be a natural filter.”

  •  Are you interested in taking part in a future event at Rainham Marshes, or any of our clean-ups across London? Then visit our event listings page to find out where and when they will be taking place.
  • If you are inspired to train to lead your own clean-ups, read about our Leading a Waterway Clean-up course and register your interest in training by email.
The group afterwards with Steve Catchpole on the tricyle in the centre
The group afterwards with Steve Catchpole on the tricycle in the centre