Research finds that 14 million items of plastic ends up in or around UK canals annually

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New research from the Canal and River Trust has found that plastics currently account for 59% of waste found along canals, and that 14 million items of plastic end up in or around our canals and rivers annually.

Working with Coventry University, the Trust has published a detailed analysis, which reviewed data from 25 locations. It has estimated that 570,000 items of plastic reach the world’s oceans each year through our waterways.

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From this, it is urging communities to take action at their doorstep to maintain their neighbourhoods and help tackle the plastic issue. It is calling for people to not drop the waste, but instead pick it up and recycle it to help the nation’s canals and rivers become plastic free.

The Trust has said that since canals and rivers have become more accessible, with over 4 million people visiting them every two weeks, almost one in five visitors have admitted to dropping litter, with a lot of this potentially ending up in our waterways. The majority of litter found along and, in the canals, annually is potentially recyclable or re-usable.

To tackle this, it believes that if every visitor picked up and recycled just one piece of plastic every time they visit, the canals and rivers could be plastic free in a year.

The Trust is also calling for people to join its volunteers and to adopt a short stretch of their local canals.

Canal and River Trust national environmental policy advisor Peter Birch said: “We are on a mission to eradicate plastics from our vast network of canals and rivers – helping us all to live in better, more beautiful neighbourhoods, whilst tackling a global issue, and making life better by water.

“Devastatingly, despite being vital green corridors in the nation’s towns and cities, our canals and rivers can inadvertently act as ‘plastics highways’, transporting rubbish from where we live out to sea. Not only is this a huge problem for wildlife, which can be harmed, it also detracts from these special and important wellbeing places in our towns and cities. We believe everyone deserves – and can help create – beauty on their doorstep, and by taking action locally, they will also be helping tackle a global issue.”

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