The charity making life better by water

Get active to fight plastic

Hundreds of people have already pledged their support for our Plastics Challenge, all doing their bit to help us preserve our precious rivers and canals. But now more than ever, we urgently need to keep up the fight.

Comedian Bill Bailey collecting plastic with a paddleboard on the water

For many, our towpaths have become a lifeline in recent months, a welcome relaxing escape from the stresses and strains of daily life. However, this has also meant litter is on the rise, up 68% in 2020.

Although our colleagues and volunteers continue to clear up as much as we can, there's always more to do. So now we're asking you to make a bit of litter picking part of your safe daily exercise, or to show your support for our campaign from home. If you want to keep fit, have fun and make a real difference in your community, why not join our fight against plastic?

Make good use of the things that you find

An estimated 14 million pieces of discarded plastic ends up in our waterways every year, spoiling the landscape and putting wildlife habitats at risk. Yet if every person who visited one of our beautiful canals and rivers picked up just one plastic bottle, box or wrapper, we could rid our waterways of plastic pollution in a year.

That's why even famous litter pickers, The Wombles, have taken up the cause, appearing in a short, animated film to highlight the dangers of plastic pollution. Many other celebrities including ‘Strictly Come Dancing' winner Bill Bailey, former Coronation Street star and live-aboard boater Nicola Thorp, and entrepreneur Deborah Meaden have also pledged their support.

Bill Bailey told us: “If everyone gets involved by doing a little bit when they are out on the towpath, we can make a significant difference, catching it at source before it floats out to sea.”

Placeholder for quotes
Plastic is a huge issue and it’s only going to take a massive effort to make an impact
Bill Bailey
Jacqui & Jamie running along the canal

Pick up plastic on your daily exercise

You can do your bit too. Just like mother and daughter Jacqui and Jaime from Hemel Hempstead, who started ‘plogging', a combination of jogging and picking up litter, as a way to keep fit and spend more time together.

As mum Jacqui explains: “Running along the canal is a great way to get away from it all and take some time without the day-to-day distractions of work and school. Despite the plastic and litter, the canal is still a beautiful place to come and have a run, and we just clean it as we go.”

Our Plastics Challenge has also been given a welcome boost from players of the People's Postcode Lottery. Their support will go a long way to encourage everyone from runners and walkers, to cyclists, paddleboarders and boaters to get involved.

Of course, right now it's vital to stay safe while taking part, and our free litter picking guide gives you all the latest advice you need. Even in these most difficult of times, we must do whatever we can to keep our canals looking their best and protect the future of our wildlife and planet.

Last Edited: 01 February 2021

photo of a location on the canals
newsletter logo

Stay connected

Sign up to our monthly newsletter and be the first to hear about campaigns, upcoming events and fundraising inspiration