News article created on 19 September 2013

Rubbish and litter – we do our bit

I’ve been thinking about rubbish a lot lately and it all came to ahead with the recent announcement that the Government will introduce a plastic bag charge (more of that later).

We recognise that rubbish is going to be generated on the waterways – by boaters, by other users and by our own maintenance activities. We provide a network of hundreds of customer waste facilities and in popular urban sites some litter bins and dog waste bins too. However, ultimately it is down to the people using our waterways to treat them with respect and deal with their rubbish properly – even if that means taking it home with you because there are no facilities on the section you use.

On a walk for our hedgerow survey the other day, I came across some rubbish that had been neatly bagged and thrown in to the undergrowth by our hedge. Not entirely sure what was going through someone’s mind when they did this, but it is no more astounding than the Keep Britain Tidy campaigns research that shows that 62% of people drop litter. This is not good news.

Failure to remove your rubbish has very real impact on not just the quality of the waterway you will enjoy next time you visit, and the wildlife that live there, but also the money that is available to keep the waterways safe and functioning for you to visit at all.

We carry out routine litter collection on urban towpaths as well as responding to complaints about litter on our land or in the water. In 2012/13 we spent over £770,000 on litter removal. This is money that would be much better spent on maintaining the waterways infrastructure or improving services and facilities for visitors. This also doesn’t include all the hours spent by our wonderful volunteers helping to clear towpaths as well.

What can you do?

Simple, don’t drop litter – it’s your rubbish, take it home with you!

Sign up to help one of our regular towpath taskforces who meet every month to improve their local waterway.

Join the Keep Britain Tidy campaign “love where you live” and get your local group working on the waterways as well as the streets.

Plastic bag charge

All of the above is just context for what I wanted to say about this proposal for a 5p plastic bag charge. This is great news, the evidence from Northern Ireland is of an 80% reduction in plastic bag use (and therefore, you would hope, plastic bag litter) when a charge is introduced.

I would like to go one further and suggest that the money raised by this charge (and even with huge reductions in usage, there will still be quite a bit raised) doesn’t just go straight back into the black hole at the Treasury but is used to help directly tackle the UK’s litter problems. It could provide additional funding for local authorities, charities and landowners who currently collectively spend more than £1billion a year dealing with stuff that the careless 62% of the population leave behind.

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The environment team

The Canal & River Trust has top team of committed experts and enthusiasts, who help to protect our waterway environment and improve it for both people and nature. Follow this blog to find out more about the hugely varied work they carry out.

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