Trialling ways to reduce litter ending up in our rivers and waterways

The River Thames is one of the world’s most iconic rivers. It's the cultural, financial and historical artery of London, but the amount of litter entering the river is on the rise and it’s travelling from all parts of the city. In total 300 tonnes of rubbish is cleared from the Thames each year. That’s equivalent to 43 bottlenose whales (the type found in the Thames in 2006)…and that’s not to mention what sinks to the riverbed or what gets washed out to sea.

In 2017 Hubbub launched 'For Fish’s Sake (#FFSLDN)' to explore new ways of tackling riverside littering, and by using bright messaging and playful interventions we managed to reduce riverside litter by 32% in the London Bridge area.

After the success in a central, touristy area, we were interested to see if similar approaches could work in a more residential area. So, in 2018 #FFSLDN made it's way upstream to Putney! The campaign featured playful interventions such as the faux ‘Fishmonger’ displaying freshly caught litter, voting bins, a community gallery and bright messaging on railings and lampposts.

The campaign highlighted the need to protect and cherish the Thames by asking Londoners to:

  • Use the bin - not the gutter, river or pavement  
  • If you see some litter and you’re near a bin – pick it up 
  • If the bin is full, find another one or take your litter home.

What type of litter is the issue?

Small pieces of litter are less likely to make it into a bin but can have devastating effects on the environment e.g. E.g. napkins, till receipts, travel tickets, food wrappers, bottles, cups, lids, disposable crockery, cigarette butts. 74% of litter picked from the Thames is food and drink related.

Where is it coming from?

Some litter gets dropped directly into the river, but much of it comes from land. Our litter travels - from our hand into a drain, a river or even the sea. It’s not all deliberate littering, it might be squeezing litter into overflowing bins, leaving litter next to a bin, placing cups or bottles on ledges, or putting cigarette butts down drains.

Why does it matter?

7 in 10 Londoners think the Thames is too polluted for fish to survive, but actually it’s home to 125 species of fish, as well as other wildlife such as seals, dolphins and even sea horses!

This is a global issue because rivers, seas and oceans are all connected - 80% of ocean plastic comes from land-based sources. Litter in both the river and the ocean is being eaten by and harming birds, fish and other species.

For those who prefer pound signs to porpoises, the Thames is worth £40 billion to the UK economy and provides 140,000 jobs.

The difference made

#FFSLDN at London Bridge ran from May-September 2017 - download the full impact report from the trial.

#FFSLDN in Putney ran from August-November 2018 – click here to download the full impact report.


What's next?

We're using our learnings from For Fish's Sake to create a scalable and replicable campaign for tackling river litter across the UK, called 'Treasure Your River'. Subscribe to our newsletter using the link in our footer to stay up to date with the latest news!

#FFSLDN 2017 was led by Hubbub, supported by the Port of London Authority and backed by a unique coalition of organisations including British Plastics Federation, INCPEN, Natural Hydration Council, St Katharine Docks and Tobacco Manufacturers Association.

#FFSLDN 2018 was led by Hubbub, supported by the Port of London Authority and brought to Putney in partnership with Wandsworth Council and Positively Putney BID.