WARWICKSHIRE residents are being asked to help keep the county’s many miles of canals free of plastic.
Waterways and wellbeing charity Canal & River Trust is calling on people across the county – where there are over 100 miles of canals – to help stop half a million pieces of plastic reaching the ocean by taking its Plastics Challenge.
The charity, which usually relies on volunteers to clear the waterways of plastic and litter, has had to put volunteering activity on hold since mid-March due to Coronavirus.
At the same time, there has been an increase in people using their nearby towpath – and the litter and plastic they bring with them.
Since the launch of the Plastics Challenge last year, volunteers have given more than 10,000 hours a month to tackle the problem, and a survey showed that plastics and litter in and around the Trust’s waterways had dropped by 30 per cent.
However, with all volunteer activity suspended since March, it is now feared that much of those environmental gains have been lost during lockdown.
Peter Birch, national environmental policy advisor at Canal & River Trust, said: “Our canals are great on-the-doorstep places for people to enjoy. However the unintended consequence is that they can be highways to the ocean, taking 500,000 pieces of carelessly discarded plastic along our waterways and out to sea each year.
“Thanks to the efforts of individual visitors, local communities and volunteers, we had seen great gains prior to lockdown. However this trend could have reversed as our volunteers have been required to stay away and the use of towpaths has increased in many urban residential areas.”
He said that every year 14 million pieces of plastic ended up in UK canals and rivers, harming the fish, swans, ducks and birds that make the canals their home.
He added: “Staying close to your home has become more important than ever in recent times and for many people their local canal or river will have brought some vital wellbeing at a time of great anxiety.
“But sadly, the problem with discarded plastics and litter remains an issue for us and every year enough plastic to fill 20,000 bin bags are washed from our canals and rivers out into the ocean.
“The canals have been there for local people during lockdown and we need people to help us look after them to ensure they remain a place everyone can enjoy. If everyone who visits one of our canals or rivers picks up just one piece of plastic, they’d be clear within a year.”
The Trust is asking visitors to carry out a short litter pick while enjoying some exercise at their local canal or river.
Visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/plastic for more information, including safety advice.