Canal Clear up - Cat Hughes

14 May 2015

London’s canals are one of the few places where nature and urbanisation sits side by side – however, they do not always do so in harmony. As anyone who has walked passed the Grand Union Canal near Paddington Station and Little Venice will have noticed that, together with the picturesque canal boats, birds and historic buildings is an array of colourful plastic bobbing up and down in the dark water.

On Wednesday 29th April Active 360 took a small group of SUP boards, including myself, armed with litter pickers to clear part of the canal near the entrance of Paddington Station. This stretch of waterway is particularly bad – the murky water is full of rubbish mainly plastic. Kneeling on our boards we pick out of the water plenty of discarded plastic as well as a shoe and slipper.  

Plastic bags were numerous. We fished out Marks and Spencer, Subway and Gap bags. We also brought out several Walkers and Doritos crisp packets and countless plastic bottles. As we plucked the rubbish out of the canal many a passer-by stopped and spoke to us about what we were doing. A young women walking passed even thanked us for our work, which helped to motivate us through the stiff knees we were all beginning to get.

One of the sites that brought home the issue of plastic in the canals was coming across a coots nest complete with chicks that was made up of reeds and plastic.

Close to £1 million is spent keeping the UK’s canals clean. Over half of the budget is spent on London’s trash strewn waterways. According to Keep Briton Tidy 62% of the population drop litter, this is a depressing statistic and shows there is still a long way to go to change people’s habits.

Plastic is not just a problem in London’s waterways, it’s a global issue. There are floating plastic ‘patches’ in the Pacific Ocean the size of Texas and it can take more than 500 years for plastic to decompose.

Back in the UK the average family throws away 40kg (6 stone) worth of plastic and the use of this material are growing by 4% every year in Western Europe. So the problem is not going to go away anytime soon – but is it possible to make a difference by lowering your plastic usage.

What can you do?

Avoid buying plastic bottles especially water bottles. Use reusable water bottles. Not only are they better for the environment but they save you money too. You will find reusable bottles in many outdoor and fitness shops and in some supermarkets.

Use reusable bags and say no when the cashier asks do you want a bag.

Don’t drop your litter. Put your little in the bin. If there isn’t a bin take its home with you. It’s your rubbish.

Register your interest to help us on future canal clean ups.

Thank you to Anu and Agnieszka for helping us with the clean-up.

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