Educating people about the impact of litter in our rivers and oceans aboard the world’s first 99% recycled plastic boats

Each year 300 tonnes of rubbish is cleared from the Thames and a large amount of that is plastic, especially food and drink packaging that comes from land. In fact, 80% of oceans plastics come from land and rivers. This is a massive problem because once plastic enters the waters it breaks down into microplastics, and lots of it is eaten by birds, fish and other wildlife.

To raise awareness of the impact of plastic in our rivers and oceans, we teamed up with Canary Wharf College, Tideway London and Mark Edwards MBE. We created the world's first 99% recycled plastic punt, called 'Poly-Mer' and run unique litter picking trips in the Docklands that teach volunteers how ocean plastics are a problem that start at home.

Plastic Fishing for businesses  Plastic Fishing for schools 

The story of Plastic Fishing

Plastic Fishing was inspired by a project in Amsterdam called Plastic Whale, which combines sightseeing with cleaning the city’s canals. Christine Armstrong, an author and circular economy champion, saw the potential to adapt the idea for the waterways near her East London home and linked up with Paul Bew, a fellow parent and Yachtmaster, the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre, and local school Canary Wharf College to set up a pilot. The pilot proved they could clean up the docks, collect valuable plastics and inspire the next generation to take care of the environment too.

Keen to take the idea further, the school was delighted when Hubbub heard about the project and offered to help take it to scale. We collaborated to turn their dream of building a punt dedicated to cleaning the docks into a reality.

The world's first 99% recycled plastic punts, Poly-Mer, was built by Mark Edwards MBE, a Richmond-based boat builder who previously built the Queen’s barge, ‘Gloriana’, from plans drawn by Paul Bew. Poly-Mer has since been joined by PET Project, Poly-Roger and Vitamin Sea in the Plastic Fishing fleet. The traditional design is over a thousand years old but the material is one of the most modern imaginable: 100% recycled plastic waste known as Plaswood. This is the first time it has been used for boat building and each punt contains 8,000 PET plastic bottles. Each time the punts go Plastic Fishing volunteers collect more bottles from the Docklands which are then recycled to make more punts. It’s the ultimate example of the circular economy in action.

Watch the journey from plastic bottle to boat:

The difference made

To date, more than 2,500 people have been Plastic Fishing, collecting over 2,800 plastic bottles from London's Docklands and 300KG of recyclable plastic. After plastic fishing, 90% of participants pledged not to buy a plastic bottle for a month.

With support from City Bridge Trust we've also been able to offer free Plastic Fishing trips for primary schools within the London Boroughs. As part of this we've created an education kit which is freely available for schools across the UK to download and use.

Support from the Starbucks 5p coffee cup charge enabled us to recycle even more plastic bottles into a second Plastic Fishing punt, PET Project. PET Project was launched in September 2018 and is currently based in Richmond, London. In 2019, Plastic Fishing became a nationwide phenomenon with a UK Plastic Fishing Tour starring our third punt Poly-Roger who has since been donated to the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham. Our fourth punt Vitamin Sea joined the Docklands fleet in 2019 thanks to the support of Kiehl’s, and has been helping volunteers turn the tide on plastic pollution since.

We also run trips for businesses and Hubbub shares the surplus from these trips with Canary Wharf College, having so far donated more than £15,000 towards nature-based outdoor activities.

How can you get involved?

Plastic Fishing for businesses

Plastic Fishing is a unique team-building and corporate volunteering opportunity that brings plastics and marine pollution issues to life, right in the heart of London. Find out more and book here.

Plastic Fishing for primary schools

'Plastic Fishing education kit', brings Plastic Fishing to life in classrooms across the UK, where the punts can't reach. Designed for primary school children in KS2 years (aged 9-11), the kit contains a teaching guide with lesson plans, a video and activity sheets which are freely available for teachers to download and use.

If you're a primary school based within a London Borough, we may be able to offer you a free Plastic Fishing trip for students aged 8-11 years. Get in touch to find out more.

With thanks to the City Bridge Trust, Tideway London, Starbucks and Kiehl's.