Britain's canals and rivers could be plastic free if visitors picked up one piece of rubbish

Plastic harms wildlife 
Plastic harms wildlife  Credit: Jack Perks Copyright 

Britain's rivers and canals would be free of plastic within months if every visitor simply picked up one discarded item each, a charity has said.

The Canal & River Trust, which cares for 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales estimates that 570,000 items of plastic are washed into the world’s oceans each year rivers and canals.

Plastic now makes up 59 per cent of waste in British inland waters but they believe that it could be dramatically cut if sightseers picked up just one piece of litter as they passed.

Peter Birch, national environmental policy advisor at Canal & River Trust, said: “By taking a little care of their local waterway, everyone can have beauty on their doorstep.

“The Canal & River Trust is on a mission to eradicate plastics from our vast network of canals and rivers – helping us all to live in better, more beautiful neighbourhoods, whilst tackling a global issue, and making life better by water.”

Studies show that around 80 per cent of the plastics and litter found in our oceans comes from inland waste that passes through water-courses around the world and out to sea.

“Devastatingly, despite being vital green corridors in the nation’s towns and cities, our canals and rivers can inadvertently act as ‘plastics highways’, transporting rubbish from where we live out to sea,” added Mr Birch.

“Not only is this a huge problem for wildlife, which can be harmed, it also detracts from these special and important wellbeing places in our towns and cities.

“ We believe everyone deserves – and can help create - beauty on their doorstep, and by taking action locally, they will also be helping tackle a global issue.”

Plastic refuse is now a regular sight along Britain's canals and rivers  Credit: Jack Perks Copyright 

Over four million people visit rivers and canals every two weeks – and with almost one in five people admitting to dropping litter.

The Trust is calling on every visitor to its waterways to pick up and recycling a piece each time they visit, which could equate to millions of bits of rubbish being collected within just a few months, stemming the tide of plastic before it reaches the sea.

Richard Parry, chief executive of Canal & River Trust, says: “We know that life is better by water and more people than ever appreciate the benefits of spending time alongside our waterways, right at the heart of thousands of communities across the country.

“ Plastic and litter free canals are beautiful, inspiring places for people to enjoy, whether for everyday use or a one-off visit, whilst also being hugely important habitats for some of the nation’s much loved and endangered species.

“Help us tackle a global issue by taking action on your doorstep today.”