About Plastic Fishing

Tide of seeing litter in local waterways? Blue Planet II leave you feeling a bit, well...blue? Awareness of ocean plastic pollution is rising, but the issue can often start much closer to home with 80% of plastic in the ocean coming from land. In London alone, 300 tonnes of rubbish is cleared from the Thames every year. 

In 2017, Hubbub and Canary Wharf College launched Plastic Fishing to raise awareness of litter, educate people about how it gets from land to the sea, and to most importantly, help them take action. Plastic Fishing was inspired by pupils, teachers and parents at Canary Wharf College who had heard about the approach from Amsterdam. We worked with the College to turn their idea into reality. In 12 months the first boat, Poly-Mer, has taken over 1,000 people Plastic Fishing around London’s Docklands collecting over 1,250 plastic bottles and generating nearly £10,000 in donations for the College.

However, the problem isn’t just in London. Littered plastic can be found in rivers and canals across the UK, and thanks to support from Starbucks and the Daily Mirror, we launched the Plastic Fishing Tour with the aim of giving away a new Plastic Fishing boat to a pro-active and committed community group.

In April 2019, Poly Roger embarked on its voyage around the UK to raise awareness on the issue of plastic pollution within UK’s waterways. The punt visited four different waterways – Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and across central Scotland’s canals. Volunteers set sail in each location on Plastic Fishing trips to help fish pesky plastic pollution from their local waterways.

Where we visited

Manchester

26th April – 2nd May

Manchester’s local rivers have been transformed since the early 1980’s. The reduction in industrial pollution and the improvements made in waste water treatment facilities has meant that fish, invertebrates and other wildlife have returned in abundance. However, these ecosystems now face a different threat: plastic pollution. A recent University of Manchester report highlighted that the rivers of Greater Manchester and the Mersey have the highest level of microplastics of any river system in the world. We worked with the Mersey Rivers Trust to bring Plastic Fishing to the Salford Quays area. 

Central Scotland

6th May – 10th May 

The canals spanning across central Scotland pass through its historic industrial heartland and vibrant green corridors. These waterways are proudly home to a wide array of wildlife with a thriving population of fish to catch along them. We teamed up with Keep Scotland Beautiful and Scottish Canals to invite communities across central Scotland to fish out pesky plastic over a 5-day voyage.  The voyage started at the iconic Falkirk Wheel and ended near Bowling Beach at the mouth of the River Clyde.

Bristol

20th May – 29th May 

Bristol’s floating harbour lies in the city centre and covers an area of 70 acres. The history of the harbour as a trading port goes back to 1051, and it is now home to many iconic attractions including The Matthew and SS Great Britain. Monthly clean-ups already took place around the harbour, which often net a plethora of plastics from the water. We teamed up with the Bristol Harbour AuthorityBristol Sea CadetsSustainable Hive, and Bristol Waste to embark on a nine-day naval battle against littered plastics in the area. The week saw Poly Roger serenaded by a local school choir at its launch and a flotilla of ships in the harbour to create a fleet of plastic fishing vessels at a community action day.

Birmingham

3rd June – 10th June 

Birmingham is famous for the canal network running through the heart of the city (proudly boasting more canals than Venice, impressionante). A number of restoration projects and effort from the local community has seen a recent increase in people using the canal network recreationally and commercially. These waterways also serve as key wildlife corridors for a variety of fish, birds, and mammals – including otters and water voles! Which is why we joined forces with the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country to help tackle plastic across Birmingham’s canals. The week of trips were rounded off with a community action day, inviting locals to help clean the canals and surrounding streets of littered items and plastic and to find out more about their local wildlife.

Our impact

A total of 599 amazing Plastic Fishers volunteered across the tour. Together they collected over 2,233 plastic bottles and over 192 bags of general waste (very e-fish-ent). Some of the more, er... interesting catches including a scarecrow, a fully decorated Christmas tree, a head (made from polystyrene - phew!), a fire extinguisher and amongst other things a television and DVD player.

Get involved

Following the tour, the Poly Roger will be going to Birmingham to enable the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country to offer #PlasticFishing trips permanently. Live in Birmingham and want to get involved get in touch with the Wildlife Trust to see how you can get involved. 

Not able to go Plastic Fishing? If you’re eager to go clean-up your local waterway why not join a local litter-picking group and pick plastics from a drier vantage point? Find a local group here.

With thanks to the Mirror Group and Starbucks for supporting the Plastic Fishing Tour. A massive thanks to our amazing collaborators on this project including Mark Edwards, the Mersey Rivers Trust, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Scottish Canals, Bristol Harbour Authority, Sustainable Hive, Bristol Waste, Bristol Sea Cadets, The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country, and the Canal and Rivers Trust.