‘Plasticblitz’ goes UK wide

Thames21 has joined forces with the Environment Agency and Rotary International to call on volunteering, community and environmental groups to come forward to sign up to take part in a mass cleanup of plastic waste from rivers across the UK between the Saturday 27th May to Sunday 11th June 2023. Participating groups will also be asked, where possible, to collect data on the types of plastic pollution they find during their events, allowing us to build an evidence base on the extent to which plastic is threatening our rivers. This data will feed into the EU-wide ‘Preventing Plastic Pollution’ Project.

Credit: CreatureCardsbyJess

Plastic pollution is a serious and growing problem within our rivers. Plastic waste threatens wildlife through ingestion and entanglement, and slowly breaks down into tiny plastic fragments (microplastics) which can work their way into the food chain.

Once plastic enters our rivers, there is no statutory obligation for any organisation or public body to remove it. This has resulted in plastic waste being allowed to accumulate in our rivers where it can then be carried out to sea. Shockingly, 80% of plastic pollution found in the sea has passed through rivers and streams on its way there. Many of our rivers are therefore effectively acting as plastic ‘taps’, allowing a constant stream of plastic from inland areas to flow into the sea.

This is the first time the Plasticblitz is going UK-wide. Previously, Thames21 worked with Environment Agency teams, community groups and river action groups to remove plastic waste from just the River Thames and its tributaries. Now all rivers across the UK will be included in the initiative. The annual citizen science event, which originally launched in 2021, aims to join these groups up to take part in a simultaneous mass clean-up of rivers across the UK between the 27th May to 4th June. The participating groups are asked to record what types of litter they are encountering, allowing us gain an idea of what the most problematic items are, and where plastic ‘hotspots’ are forming.

Single-use plastic items such as wet wipes, sweet wrappers and plastic bottle tops were the most commonly littered items found in last year’s Plasticblitz of the River Thames and its tributaries.

The Plasticblitz event was a success last year. Nearly 500 volunteers collected 437 bags of rubbish across the Thames and its tributaries. A total of 14,581 items were individually categorised, with 85% of this being plastic. The worst plastic offenders were wet wipes, bottle tops, sweet wrappers and cigarette stubs.

The challenge is on to beat these figures in 2023!

The 2023 Plasticblitz will take place between Saturday 27th May to Sunday 11th June 2023. Groups will upload their results to the live StoryMap  (to be published soon), which will include details of each participating team, as well as a league table showing which teams collected the most bags of litter. This StoryMap will also give a live breakdown of what items have been collected across all groups.

Click here to see the 2023 Thames and Tributaries Plasticblitz Storymap!


You can now register to take part in the 2023 Plasticblitz! 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.

Click here to sign up to the 2023 Plasticblitz!

If you are an individual who is interested in taking part, please keep an eye on our event page which will advertise events open to the public as we near the Plasticblitz kick off date in September.

A generic risk assessment that can be used as a template for Plasticblitz events can be found below:

Risk assessment generic template

For any further questions about how to get involved, please get in touch with Thames21’s Sarah Thornley at sarah.thornley@thames21.org.uk