Join our Plastics Challenge

Every year an estimated 14 million pieces of plastic rubbish end up in and around our canals and rivers. Sadly we can’t clear all of this plastic up, so 500,000 of those pieces are washed out into the ocean, becoming part of a much bigger global problem.

If everyone who visited one of our waterways picked up just one piece of plastic, the water and towpaths would be clear within a year.

Pledge to fight plastic in your area

We're asking if you and your family can make a pledge to do a litter pick along a towpath near you. We understand it might not be possible for you to meet up, or to get out and about right now. So please do wait until it’s safe and make sure you follow national and local government guidance. You can also read through our safety tips to get yourselves prepared.

An underwater problem

You'd be surprised to discover what's under the surface of our canals and rivers. From shopping trolleys to traffic cones, there's a lot of litter.

This can be dangerous for people who are fishing, boating and canoeing. Plastic bottles and bags can also harm the swans, fish and other wildlife that make the canals their home.

The good news is that it’s the little things you and your family do on your doorstep that can make a world of difference.

Plastic litter is a huge issue, and it’s something that I think everyone can get involved in. Please join the Plastics Challenge to help make your local canal a place all of us can enjoy.

Strictly Come Dancing star, comedian Bill Bailey

Don't let it go to waste

The amount of plastic and litter in our waterways had dropped by 30% at the start of 2020. This was thanks to our dedicated army of volunteer litter picking groups nationwide, as well as everyone who took part in our Plastics Challenge. Without your help, this fantastic effort could now go to waste.

Due to the pandemic, many more people are visiting their local canal or river to spend time with family and friends, exercise and enjoy some fresh air. It’s great that we’re all getting outdoors and looking after our wellbeing, but unfortunately more people has resulted in more litter. We urgently need to keep up the fight against plastic.

Help tackle the global plastics crisis by pledging to join our Plastics Challenge and take local action.

Plastics Challenge 2020 infographic 5

Are you with us?

Many of you have already taken on the Plastics Challenge and shared your stories and photos on social media. Here are some of our inspirational challengers in action, including 4-year-old Ayesha.

Ayesha loves exploring nature and taking in all the sights and sounds of being on the towpath. She decided to collect litter along the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal near her home in London, to help protect the wildlife that lives there.

Part of Jo’s daily exercise

Each day Jo walks a one-hour route around her local reservoir at Tring and along the neighbouring Grand Union Canal, collecting litter as she goes.

“I do it because I care about wildlife and the environment,” says Jo. “I think of the canal and reservoir as an extension of my back garden. If we don’t look after nature then it won’t look after us.”

Jo collecting plastic litter along the Grand Union Canal towpath
Sisters Poppy and Eliza collect litter by the canal

Poppy and Eliza doing their bit

Sisters Poppy and Eliza carried out a sponsored litter pick last year, raising money from their family and friends.

"If everyone did their little bit, then the world would be a better place," says Poppy.

Become a Blue Guardian

Make a monthly donation and support our work to remove plastic and harmful waste from our waterways before it reaches the ocean.