Cleaning up the water environment

Cleaning up the water environment

litter picking

The future of plastic free waterways

The problems created by single use plastic in water have been highlighted in the media over recent months. Awareness of the implications of so much plastic in the environment has inspired action over the last 12 months.

During 2018 several organisations made plans to combat the estimated 12 million tons of plastics entering oceans every year. 

In April the UK Plastics Pact brought together 42 businesses to commit to reducing unecessary single use plastic in their packaging. These businesses are responsible for over 80% of plastic used in supermarket products. The signatories aim to make 70% of their plastic packaging recycled or composted.


In October the UK Government launched a consultation for a plan to ban plastic drinking straws, stirrers and cotton buds by 2020.  This plan requires producers of packaging products to assume responsibility for the collection, transportation, recycling, disposal, treatment and recovery of plastic cotton buds, stirrers and drinking straws.


Several cities in the United States have banned plastic straws along with a number of food chains and supermarkets and disposable plastic bags have been banned in Italy, China, Bangladesh and South Africa.



In June 2018 the House of Commons had the first reading of the Private Members Bill Packaging (Extended Producer Responsibility) Bill 2017 -19 .  This Bill would require producers of packaging products to assume responsibility for the collection, transportation, recycling, disposal, treatment and recovery of packaging products; and for connected purposes. If the Bill goes through, it means the producer of the packaging products has to fulfill their responsibilities to oversee compliance with section 93 of the Environment Act 1995.



In November the European Commission reported they had over 60 organisations who had pledged to make the EU plastics strategy work.


On a world wide scale there is the Ellen MacArthur New Plastics Economy Global Committment. More than 250 signataries have signed up to the following targets:

  • Eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and move from single-use to reuse packaging models
  • Innovate to ensure 100% of plastic packaging can be easily and safely reused, recycled, or composted by 2025
  • Circulate the plastic produced, by significantly increasing the amounts of plastics reused or recycled and made into new packaging or products


The United Nations Environment Programme estimates around 80% of litter in watercourses and seas was originally dropped on land. Everyone of us can make a difference by picking up rubbish when we see it, better still find a litter picker gadget,


a strong pair of gloves, recycling bags and rubbish sacks and spend some time outdoors improving the environment.



Here are the plastic items that are the biggest problems in our environment:


If you are interested in the bigger picture of plastic in the environment there is a short video from the Natural Environment and Research Council (NERC). Click here to see their video.


The NERC website is worth a visit to see the ongoing range of research and innovation projects :


Litter picking anywhere is a good way to spend time and clearing rubbish from our rivers will help local wildlife and help clean up our seas.




If you have you have ever wondered what you could do to improve your local environment today, litter picking from rivers is one good idea and the local wildlife will be safer too.




One local hero has made a significant impact on clearing his local environment. Nick Urquhart from Northamptonshire was fed up with litter in his local river so decided to take action. He has collected 10 tonnes of rubbish over 7 years, most of which went for recycling.

Read more on this story here.



Keep Britain Tidy has a campaign to help remove litter from rivers. This improves the environment for the organisms that live in and around waterways and ultimately the sea.


Volunteers for the RiverCare and BeachCare projects collected 20,000 kg of litter over 12 months and helped to identify the sources of litter.

If you would like to make an immediate difference to improving the waterside environment, equip yourself with litter picking equipment and take a friend litter picking. You will be keeping MK waterways clear of rubbish, be a friend to wildlife and improve your environment. Please make sure you stay safe near water.

These are the recent initiatives for reducing plastic. Better still, reduce the amount you buy.  

As well as picking up plastics from our environment, we can all make small changes to use less plastic. If you need inspiration Cate Cody has some tried and tested suggestions you might like to try, Cate is famous for putting her landfill bin out every two years. See how to follow this example with the ideas on the ecocody website


Let us know what you think about reducing plastic. How do you think these initiatives will work and do you have your own ideas for reducing plastic by policies or in practice. We look forward to hearing your ideas.



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  • Evan Lysandra



    i saw there is a project called precious plastic. the project is enable plastic waste become raw material for 3D printer in a simple manner. it enables us to do it in garage. i think developing the pr...

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