The Thames and Tributaries ‘Plasticblitz’

Thames21 has joined forces with the Environment Agency and Rotary in the Thames Valley (through their international End Plastic Soup campaign) 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 the Thames and its tributaries between the 17th and 25th of September 2022. 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.

Logo design: Jess Whittick

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.

Throughout the Thames basin, there are numerous community groups, river action groups and Environment Agency teams already working hard to remove plastic waste from their local river. The Thames and Tributaries Plasticblitz is an annual citizen science event that aims to join these groups up to take part in a simultaneous mass clean-up of the Thames and its tributaries between the 17th and 25th of September. 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.

Extreme volumes of plastic pollution collecting on the Alders Brook, East London.

The Plasticblitz concept was trialled last year to great success. In total, 17 teams from a mix of Environment Agency and community group backgrounds took part. Between them, these groups carried out 26 litter picks across the Thames and its tributaries, spanning from Gloucestershire to Teddington. In total, 139 bin bags were filled and more than 6,500 items of waste were catergorised, with 72% of this waste made of plastic.

The challenge is on to beat these figures in 2022!

The 2022 Plasticblitz will take place between the 17th and 25th September. Groups will upload their results to the live StoryMap, 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 2022 Thames and Tributaries Plasticblitz StoryMap!

Sign-up!

You can now register to take part in the 2022 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 2022 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.

An online webinar will be held on July 13th 2022 to introduce the Plasticblitz concept and method to participating groups and those that are interested in finding out more. Sign up to this here.

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 Will Oliver at will.oliver@thames21.org.uk