New coalition launched to boost community action on plastic pollution

Environmental charity Thames21 has launched a unique initiative called Plastics Action which will help to upscale the development of grassroots community groups to take action to tackle plastic pollution in rivers across England.

Each year, 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced and 40% of that is single-use – plastic that is only used once before it’s binned or worse, littered. Once littered, it finds its way into drains, watercourses and, ultimately, our oceans where it gradually breaks down into microplastics.

Working with partners from local volunteers to regional charities and national NGOs, as well as with university academics and government representatives, the project will allow partners to come together to find solutions to tackle the country’s rising tide of polluting plastic.

The three-year initiative, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, will also aim to increase community clean ups and evidence gathering and bring heightened awareness in communities of the importance of managing single-use plastic and what they can do.

The issue of plastic in the oceans has received a lot of attention in recent years, but the environmental challenges faced by rivers and the freshwater environment is also concerning since it is the main route for plastic waste from the land into the ocean.

Commenting on the launch of the new initiative, Thames21 CEO Debbie Leach said: “Plastics Action fits perfectly with our aim to empower and support people in communities to understand, engage with and take practical action to take care for and benefit from the rivers and streams in their neighbourhood.

“The project’s goal is to create a step-change in the scale of opportunities that are available for people across the country to work together in their communities, brought together through a common interest in their local river and a shared goal to improve it for themselves and for others in their community.

“Plastic pollution is an ongoing and serious threat to rivers across the country and the world. Our approach is one of multi-stakeholder action – no one single tool will fix this pervasive issue. We need policymakers to enforce legislation to tackle the problem, we need manufacturers to produce widely recyclable products and reduce production of unnecessary single-use plastics, and we need consumers to get on board, reduce the number of single-use plastic items they buy, and dispose of their waste responsibly – and act as advocates for change.”

The project will focus on five trial locations, including London, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Manchester/Stockport, East Anglia and Bristol.

The Plastics Action Steering Group will be chaired by Keep Britain Tidy CEO Allison Ogden-Newton OBE. She said: “We know that plastic pollution is something that millions of people across the country are concerned about so I am delighted to be chairing this important group as we explore new and innovative ways to tackle the problem at every level.”

Notes to editors

Members of the Plastics Action Steering Group include the Essex Rotary Club, the Environment Agency, Keep Britain Tidy, Tyne Rivers Trust, Friends Of the River Crane Environment (FORCE), the University of Portsmouth, Queen Mary University of London, The Rivers Trust, RiverCare, and Thames21.

The Plastics Action Steering Group represents a coalition of national, regional and local organisations and groups working together to develop a practical, effective Roadmap to expand grassroots community action and involvement to achieve faster, more widespread reduction of plastic pollution in rivers.  

The Plastics Action Steering Group will utilise workshops and consultations to analyse and build on examples of success at a local level, address barriers to success, and devise solutions to these barriers in order to achieve increased long-term public participation.

Stakeholders held a successful Plastics Action National Conference in December 2022 , providing thought-provoking discussions onlocal community clean-up activity on rivers might be effectively expanded on river systems across the country.

About Thames21

Thames21 connects people with rivers by putting healthy rivers back at the heart of everyday life. We improve and restore rivers, educate and empower the community and campaign for positive change for the good of people and the environment. 

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