Join our Plastics Challenge

Plastics and litter in our canals and rivers are part of a much bigger global problem. The good news is that it’s the little things you do on your doorstep that can make a world of difference.

Every year an estimated 14 million pieces of plastic end up in and around our canals and rivers. These plastic bottles, food wrappers and bags can harm the fish, swans and other wildlife that make the canals their home.

Sadly we can’t clear all of this up, so enough plastic to fill 20,000 bin bags is washed from our waterways out into the ocean each year.

Get active to fight plastic

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

So, we're asking if you can do a litter pick along a towpath near you. You'll need to read our safety tips before you set off, which are also included in our free downloadable guide below. 

Join our Plastics Challenge and make a global difference in your local community.

Saira Khan from ITV's Loose Women supports our Plastics Challenge Saira Khan from ITV's Loose Women supports our Plastics Challenge

I use my local canal every day to exercise and walk with my children. It’s important for it to be plastic and pollution-free, for our enjoyment and for wildlife.

Saira Khan

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.

Rubbish underwater can be dangerous for wildlife, as well as for anglers and people using boats and canoes.

We rely heavily on our army of volunteers to clear up plastic waste. Before the coronavirus lockdown began, they were collectively donating over 10,000 hours each month to remove plastics and litter from our waterways. The pandemic meant that all the clean-up activity carried out by our volunteers had to be suspended.

Don't let it go to waste

The amount of plastic and litter in our waterways has dropped by 30% in the last year. This is thanks to our volunteers and everyone who’s already joined in with our Plastics Challenge.

Without your help, this fantastic effort could now go to waste. As lockdown restrictions ease and more of us return to enjoy our local canal or river, we urgently need to keep up the fight against plastic.

Join our Plastics Challenge and help tackle the global plastics crisis by acting locally today.

Plastics Challenge 2020 infographic 5

Part of Jo’s daily exercise

Jo collecting plastic litter along the Grand Union Canal towpath

Jo loves to walk around her local reservoir at Tring and along the neighbouring Grand Union Canal. Over the summer she noticed that as the area was getting busier, litter and plastic waste were mounting up. “One evening I spotted a pile of litter dumped close to some young goslings. Seeing this made me want to do something about it,” said Jo.

Each day Jo now walks a one-hour route collecting litter as she goes, making it part of her daily exercise. She takes a pair of gloves and aims to fill a bag each time. 

“I do it because I care about wildlife and the environment,” said Jo. “I think of the canal and reservoir as an extension of my back garden. If everyone did their bit, it would make such a difference. If we don’t look after nature then it won’t look after us.”

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.