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59% of litter in English and Welsh canals is plastic

  • 59% of litter in English and Welsh canals is plastic
  • Rivers and canals in England and Wales carry over 500,000 items of plastic to the ocean every year.

A new study finds that 24 million items of plastic and other litter are dropped or blown into English and Welsh canals every year. Used plastic, including bags, bottles and food wrappers now accounts for 59% of the litter found in the waterways. The report also reveals that over half a million plastic items reach the ocean every year carried along rivers and canals.

The research led by the Canal & River Trust, a charity that looks after 2,000 miles of waterways, with the help from Coventry University, says it spends more than £1 million a year cleaning litter and fly-tipping, with volunteers spending 100,000 hours picking up rubbish. But if every visitor picked up and disposed of just one piece of plastic, within a year there would be no plastic left.

Of the litter found, the majority was plastic and a further 29% was easily recyclable such as paper, card, metal and glass. According to the research, if the amount of single use plastics could be reduced, reused or recycled, 80% of litter in rivers could be reduced.

The detailed analysis was based on the quantity of plastic and litter found at 15 locations along the 2,000 miles of waterways in order to calculate the impact on canals and rivers as a whole.

The Canal & River Trust urges communities to play their part to clean canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks. Whether by volunteering with the charity, swapping from single-use items to reusables, recycling or picking up a piece of plastic each time they visit these waterways.

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