Taking the Plastic out of the Thames


Totally Thames is London’s annual celebration of its river, and this year’s festivities from September 1st – 30th include several that highlight and address the plastic pollution problem in our city’s artery.


Thames21’s annual Big Bottle Count took place on the first Saturday of the month in partnership with the #oneless campaign and around 200 Londoners, collecting litter across 19 intertidal sites on the Thames, removed 4,100 plastic bottles from the environment. Forty percent of those bottles were water bottles, illustrating perfectly what a damaging and ironic impact water can have on water when it’s sold in a plastic bottle that might end up in a river or the sea. On a positive note, most clean-up sites reported a drop in the number of plastic bottles collected compared to previous years which we hope means that the number of bottles that are in the river in the long term is being reduced through these sorts of initiatives and it will become easier to gauge the amount of “fresh” plastic litter entering the watercourse annually. We’re grateful to Thames21 for donating 1000 plastic water bottles to our #bottlestoboardshorts project to produce beautiful swim shorts from recycled beach-clean plastics.


a tub of plastic water bottles collected at a beach clean for riz boardshorts' #bottlestoboardshorts project 

Highlighting the amount of plastic litter in the Thames to both locals and visitors to London who didn’t take part in the Thames21 beach cleans, is artist Maria Arceo’s Future Dust art installation.  Maria’s work highlights the human footprint on aquatic environments, and for Future Dust she spent the last year collecting plastic litter from over forty sites along the tidal Thames and that plastic is now being displayed in cages illuminated after dark by Dutch interactive light artist Tim Scheffer.  Future Dust is being displayed at various riverside sites along the Thames over the course of September.


artist maria arceo with her future dust plastic pollution installation, photographed by Hydar Dewachi 


On Saturday September 30th we’ll be running a foreshore clean at Small Profits Dock in Barnes in partnership with Active 360’s Paddle & Pick stand-up paddle along the Thames (from Brentford Arches to Barnes towpath) and followed by a screening of A Plastic Ocean documentary film being shown as part of Barnes Film Festival. Email if you would like to join us on land or you can book your place on the Paddle & Pick (which includes a ticket to the film screening) here, or if you can only make it to watch the film in the evening then tickets are available here.  We hope that some of you can join us.


Plastic pollution in the aquatic environment isn’t something that is “out of sight, out of mind”.  We all live and work in a watershed in which everything, plastic litter included, flows downstream to our rivers and finally our oceans. Living in a major city like London doesn’t disconnect us from that reality, and the plight of the Thames proves that.


Future Dust images copyright and courtesy of Hydar Dewachi.  Find out more about Totally Thames 2017.

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