News article created on 10 April 2017

What's hiding at the bottom of the canals?

At an annual cost of £1 million to clean up after litter-happy Britons – from blow up dolls to shopping trolleys - we are saying enough is enough.

Cans and bottles, Rochdale Canal

This winter we have uncovered some very unusual items from the bottom of our canals and rivers, from an adult blow-up doll and golf buggies, to a pogo stick, a pair of walkie talkies and a garden fork.  Empty safes, motorbikes, countless shopping trolleys, tyres and mobile phones were also part of the winter haul and we remove thousands of cans, bottles, wrappers and plastic bags every year.

In a recent survey we commissioned, 96 per cent of people said that they didn’t think it was acceptable to drop litter, but 66 per cent still admitted to doing it. Most of the discarded rubbish on the waterways sinks to the bottom of the canal or river bed, causing an invisible hazard to the environment and boats. Tyres and other rubbish contain pollutants which leak into the water and poison fish and other wildlife. Often rubbish acts as a choking hazard and wildlife can become trapped in it.

When asked, 80 per cent of people said that they were concerned about the amount of litter in their local area and the issue could leave a dirty legacy for generations to come. Every year thousands of plastic bags (which take up to 20 years to break down) and drink cans (which can take up to 200 years) are thrown into the waterways. 

Peter Birch, our National Environment Manager, said: "Rubbish being thrown into our canals and rivers is a problem that is not going away.  We are asking members of the public to join the fight against litter. We should be protecting these special places not damaging them. Our excellent army of volunteers help us to clear rubbish but the funds that we have to allocate to it could be better spent."