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Battling against plastics in our waterways

People in Birmingham have taken part in a canal clean up with a difference as a floating cyclist took to the waterways to raise awareness of the problems caused by plastic pollution.

Man sits on a bike strapped to two floating skis with a basket full of plastic litter on the canal.

As part of the event on Friday 6 April, environmentalist Dhruv Boruah pedalled a specially adapted bike, made from bamboo and which has two giant floats attached to it, along the canal picking up plastic that he found along the way. He was joined by our team of Trust volunteers who used a workboat to clear plastic and other rubbish from hard to reach places.

Local people were also encouraged to join in and help clear litter from the towpath as Dhruv and the workboat made their way from the Centre of the Earth centre to the Roundhouse.

The cost of clearing up litter

It costs the Trust around £1 million each year to clear the rubbish dumped in the nation's waterways, funds that could be spent on improving wildlife habitats and making sure the waterways are navigable for boaters. In just one week recently our volunteers in Birmingham cleared two tonnes of plastics from the city's waterways.

Nick Cleaver, community engagement co-ordinator said; "Our waterways are special places and here in the heart of Birmingham offer invaluable places to escape the bustle of daily life. That's why it's heart-breaking to see when people carelessly dump plastics and other rubbish into them. It's not just unsightly but can cause harm to all the really important wildlife that lives on Birmingham's canals.

As a charity, we need support to tackle the problem and that's why the help of people like Dhruv and our amazing volunteers is invaluable."

Dhruv, a former city worker in London, was inspired to take action against the growing problem of plastic pollution during a London to Rio sailing boat race. During the race he and his crew had to rescue two turtles caught up in a mass of ropes and plastic bottles. Since then he has used the floating bike as a means of tackling pollution on London's waterways and raising public awareness of the problem. Now he's turning his attention to Britain's canal capital.

Problems for canal wildlife

Speaking about the event in Birmingham Dhruv said; "BBC's Blue Planet II has definitely generated awareness about the scale and dangers of plastic pollution in the ocean but everything starts here in our backyard, in our canals. Plastic waste can cause real problems for wildlife right here on our canals but it also travels through our waterways to the ocean harming marine life.

Clean-ups like the one in Birmingham on the 6 April are not the real solution; the real solution is to stop plastic at its source. We want people to learn about it, talk about the dangers to their friends, family and colleagues and inspire them to be careful with the purchase and use of plastic, specifically single-use plastics."

Last Edited: 11 April 2018

photo of a location on the canals
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