Waves of plastic are ending up in our oceans and 80% of this comes from land. This isn’t just a coastal problem, litter across the country is flowing down our drains, canals and rivers to end up in the ocean. The Canal and Rivers Trust report that 500,000 items of plastic litter are reaching the sea from UK rivers each year. A recent study has shown that in the River Thames and the River Clyde, a whopping 32% of fish had microplastics in their gut. This is worse for some types of fish, as another study found that up to 75% of European Flounder had ingested plastic. This impacts the entire food chain and plastics have even been discovered in the food we eat.

Our #TreasureYourRiver campaign is aiming to tackle the issue. It’s a whirlpool of a problem, but fortunately there are some simple steps we can take to help turn the tide on ocean plastic pollution.

1) Switch to reusables for smoother sailing

Trying to stop your single-use plastics from swimming with the fishes? The best thing you can do is not purchase them in the first place. If you don’t already have one – treat yourself to a nice reusable hot drinks mug, lunch container, travel cutlery, water bottle, tote bag, or anything else you use regularly! Shop around to find a tried-and-tested reusable that’s unlikely to leak or break. Get a reusable you know you’ll love, look after, and show it off like a proud parent time-and-time again. A reusable uses a lot of resources to make, so it s only better for the planet if you actually use it regularly. 

 2) Shop smarter (not harder)

Be clever with your cash. You may find that you can avoid plastic packaging with daily essentials, things like shampoo and soap can be bought naked, and many shops now invityou to bring your own packaging to take products home inIf this isn’t possible, try to find packaging made from recycled materials which are easy to recycle locally. Check the packaging, if it’s made from recycled material, they’ll probably shout about it. The packaging will also typically tell you what it’s made from. Cans, pure paper products, and most plastic bottles are widely accepted at recycling points, avoid products in non-recyclable packaging where possible.  

3) Prolong the 'single'-life

Be a rebel, stick it to the ‘man’ and ignore the concept of ‘single-use’ anything. If you do find yourself using a ‘single-use’ item – turn it into your own reusable. A plastic bottle is perfect for reusing, especially if you like flavoured drinks which can sometimes stick around in your favourite reusable water bottle. Give today’s plastic cutlery a clean and you’re good to go for lunch-time tomorrow. Before recycling or throwing an item away – think about whether you can make use of the item again – don’t recycle or bin it until you’re completely done (after all, you’ve paid for it).   

4) Show your mateys how to recycle

When you’re completely done with your packaging, check the label to see whether it’s recyclable. Putting the wrong items into recycling can cause the whole lot to be thrown away – so if you’re in doubt, do leave it out. Recycled plastic is a valuable resource and can go on to make a variety of different things such as benches, plant pots, boats and well… more bottles! So tell your crew to recycle too.   

5) Don't be a 'tidy' litterer

The vast majority of us can say we would never ever litter, on purpose. Trying to use bins that are overflowing, leaving packaging in ‘tidy’ locations(such as stacked neatly on a wall, or next to a bin) and dropping things like cigarette butts on the floor or down the drain are all common ways for litter to end up swimming in our waterways. Instead, it’s best to keep hold of any potential litter you have until a suitable and spacious bin can be found. 

6) Watch what you flush 

It’s not a great thought, but sometimes the things we flush down the toilet can end up floating down your nearest riverThings you’re not meant to flush (anything other than pee, poo or paper) can cause blockages leading to sewage overflowing into our rivers and streets. Yuck! Some wet-wipes which are sold as ‘flushable’ can also cause blockages as they can take a long time to degrade, sanitary products and things like cotton bud sticks should also be popped in the bin.  

 7) Go the extra (nautical) mile

If you do feel like going above and beyond your land-lubbing duty, you can help by picking up lost pieces of litter and placing them in a nearby bin before they blow away. Watch our message in a bottle video to see how we thanked people who did exactly that. If you’re lucky enough to live by a shore, river, or canal, there are likely litter-picking events scheduled to take place near you. Try searching for litter-picking in your area on social media or if you can't find one - contact your local council to get involved. The fish will thank you! 

8) Check your clothes label

If your clothes are made from polyester, nylon or acrylic you may be surprised to hear that they’re also plastic. When these materials are washed, friction causes tiny strands of plastic to break off in the form of plastic microfibres. We’re not suggesting you buy a whole new wardrobe, or strut around in your birthday suit, but there are some simple changes you can make to reduce your impact. For example, washing your clothes less, washing on a lower temperature, air-drying as opposed to tumble-drying and ensuring your washing machine is full before a wash can all reduce the amount of microfibres your clothes shed. For more tips visit www.whatsinmywash.org.uk. 


Our campaign #TreasureYourRiver is always looking for more crew members. Find out more information about the campaign and climb aboard by visiting our website. 


  By Jack Hodgkiss