Hubbub’s latest campaign targets litter on five UK rivers

Still from Hubbub's Treasure Your Rivers campaign video
75 per cent of people surveyed say they would like to do more to tackle marine litter.
Environmental behaviour change charity, Hubbub, is launching a campaign to reduce litter along five major UK rivers.

‘Treasure Your River’ is a project set up to remove litter from the Rivers Avon, Mersey, Thames, Severn, Forth and their tributaries.

With research from the Canal and Rivers Trust revealing that 500,000 items of litter make their way into the sea from UK rivers every year, Hububb’s latest campaign, funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation, aims to educate people about the impact river litter has on ocean pollution.

The project is due to launch in May 2020 and will initially focus on prevention and clean-up activities on five major cities based on these rivers –  Bristol, Manchester, London, Cardiff and Edinburgh – by collaborating with businesses, residents and organisations situated along them.

As well as tackling littering behaviour with engaging bins and eye-catching interventions, campaigners have set a target of collecting 90 tonnes of litter from these five rivers and their tributaries over the next year and prevent another 95 tonnes of entering the UK’s waterways in the first place.

Trewin Restorick, Hubbub CEO, said :“The vast majority of plastics that end up in the world’s oceans are carried there by rivers. Cleaning up the river is one thing but preventing litter getting in there in the first place is really crucial. Until we change behaviour on land, this problem will just continue.

“Our research showed that 81 per cent of people believe businesses should be doing more to tackle the issue. We want all organisations along the banks of these rivers to come together and help halt the flow of litter into the sea. Whether you’re a sailing club, a school, a local business, a charity or a resident, we want to hear from you!”  

Hubbub’s previous river projects have mainly focused on London and the River Thames, where around 300 tonnes of rubbish is cleared each year. Research from Royal Holloway, University of London, revealed that 28 per cent of fish in the Thames estuary have eaten microplastics, which enter waterways through a number of sources.

Despite the 2018 ban on plastic microbeads in wash-off cosmetics, microplastics are still present in other daily products and activities – for example via microfibres from washing machines – as well as stemming from larger pieces of waste plastic that break down.

To raise awareness of the impact of plastic on marine life, the ‘plastic fishing’ project was set up by Hubbub, using boats made of recycled Plaswood to take school children on waste fishing trips and collect plastic and litter from the river. The boats are now starting to tour other UK cities, including Bristol.

In 2017 the ‘For Fish’s Sake London’ (#FFSLDN) campaign also aimed to educate, and reduce the amount of litter finding its way into the Thames by encouraging Londoners to always put litter in a bin, pick up other litter they see and put it in a bin and, if a bin is full, take litter home or find another bin.

Branching out

It’s clear that more still needs to be done, with new statistics from Censuswide revealing that 48 per cent of people don’t realise that litter entering drains can easily end up in rivers and then the sea. However, 75 per cent of those surveyed said they would like to do more to reduce the amount of litter ending up in the sea.

Last year, the River Tame in Manchester was reported to have the worst microplastics pollution in the world, with its concentration of microplastics found to be more than 50 per cent higher than that found in the next ranked site, again highlighting the importance of reducing river litter across the country.

Treasure Your River is now branching out from London, with a network of volunteers from organisations across the country including: Keep Wales Tidy, Bristol Waste, Mersey Rivers Trust and Changeworks.

Treasure Your River will engage the public on how they can make a difference through simple behaviour changes such as taking their rubbish home with them, two-minute litter picks and responsible disposal of fishing tackle. The campaign aims to create a legacy for each river, collaborating with regular volunteers and setting up litter-clearing infrastructure.  

Speaking on behalf of The Coca-Cola Foundation, Liz Lowe said: “We are all aware of the terrible impact that ocean pollution is having on marine wildlife and the environment, and collaborative action is critical.”

“Part of the approach to this is to raise greater awareness of the causes of ocean pollution, which is why we’re funding Treasure Your River – to not only help educate people about how rivers are transporting rubbish from our streets and riverbanks to the sea, but to also help with the clean-up of these rivers. Water is fundamental to nature, communities and businesses.”

Read more about Hubbub’s campaigns on the charity’s website.

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