Plasticblitz expands in bid to tackle river litter across the UK

Call for groups to protect UK rivers: here’s how you can join

Environmental charity Thames21 and the Environment Agency are expanding their Plasticblitz initiative in an effort to tackle rising levels of plastic litter in rivers across the UK.

Groups across the UK will be invited to take part in this year’s Plasticblitz, from 27th May to 11th June, to clear up plastic litter from their local rivers and banks and gather data on the problem to lobby for change.

Thames21 and the Environment Agency originally launched the scheme in 2021 to focus on litter survey work that analysed litter items across the River Thames and its tributaries. In 2022, the organisations teamed up with community organisation Rotary in the Thames Valley to work on the project.

However, as well as the challenges of sewage, agricultural and pharmaceutical pollution, urban rivers across the UK, are facing increasing plastic pollution. To reflect this challenge, the organisations decided to open up the Plasticblitz to group participants across the UK.

Since launching in 2021, the Plasticblitz initiative has gone from strength to strength. Last year, a total of 40 groups took part in the Plasticblitz and filled 437 bin bags of plastic pollution. In 2021, 17 groups filled 139 bin bags of plastic pollution, including a floating fake crocodile head, a large paddling pool and model R2D2.

The data that the teams collect have fed into an EU-wide ‘Preventing Plastic Pollution’ project, which aims to understand and reduce the impacts of plastic pollution in river and marine environments via behaviour change, targeting hotspots and finding effective solutions.

Chris Coode, Deputy CEO of Thames21, said: “It’s great that local residents and groups are coming together to take part in helping to do their bit for the environment and we hope that it will encourage them to reduce, reuse and recycle their plastic packaging. Plastics should have no place in our rivers or the natural environment, but sadly we are seeing it along our roads, railway tracks and rivers.

“Rivers are natural accumulators of litter from the land and they are our last line of defence before that litter is lost forever to the oceans.

“No single tool will fix the pervasive issue of plastic pollution in our rivers, so we advocate for multi-stakeholder action. We need policymakers, manufactures and retailers, brands and the general public on board to tackle this problem.”

Maria Herlihy, Thames Area Operations and Waterways Manager: “The Plasticblitz is a collective effort to clean up the River Thames and its tributaries, and at the same time collect data on the types of litter being found. Each piece of litter collected has the potential to break down into many smaller pieces, known as microplastics, which pollute our rivers and seas.

“As well as causing localised harm to wildlife, the use of plastic has wider implications. Its use is intertwined with climate change, as plastic manufacture has a carbon footprint. We can all find ways to reduce the number of single-use plastic items we buy, and dispose of our waste responsibly.”

How to get involved

The Plasticblitz runs from Saturday 27th May to the end of Sunday 11th June. It has been designed to be as simple as possible and any group which is covered by their own public liability insurance and risk assessment is invited to take part. This could include (but is not limited to) community groups, Thames21 River Action Group, Rotary Clubs, religious groups, canoe/kayak clubs, youth groups, school groups and sea cadet/scout groups. Participating groups are responsible for organising and running their own event and do so under their own risk. Unfortunately, this event is not open to corporate groups or businesses.

Find out more here:

©Waterways Pickers of Staines

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. | Registered Charity No. 1103997