West Leeds residents are being asked to pick up a piece of litter and help stop plastic reaching the ocean via the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
Waterways and wellbeing charity Canal & River Trust, which relies on its army of volunteers to help clear the waterways of plastic and litter, has had to put volunteering activity on hold since mid-March due to coronavirus.
At the same time, the need for people to ‘stay local’ has seen an increase in the number of people using their nearby towpath – and bringing the litter and plastic they bring with them.
Since the launch of its Plastics Challenge, volunteers nationally had given more than 10,000 hours a month to tackle the problem, and a survey showed that plastics and litter in and around the Trust’s waterways had dropped by 30% since last year.
But it is now feared that much of those environmental gains could have been lost during the coronavirus lockdown period.
Peter Birch, national environmental policy advisor at Canal & River Trust, said:
“Our canals are great on-the-doorstep places for people to enjoy, however the unintended consequence is that they can be highways to the ocean taking 500,000 pieces of carelessly discarded plastic along our waterways and out to sea each year.
“Thanks to the efforts of individual visitors, local communities and volunteers, we had seen great gains prior to lockdown, however this trend could have reversed as our volunteers have been required to stay away and the use of towpaths has increased in many urban residential areas as people have enjoyed using towpaths for their daily exercise.
“But sadly, the problem with discarded plastics and litter remains an issue for us and every year enough plastic to fill 20,000 bin bags are washed from our canals and rivers out into the ocean.”
“If everyone who visits one of our canals or rivers picks up just one piece of plastic, they’d be clear within a year.”
People are being urged to follow Government guidelines on social distancing and washing their hands. To ensure everyone takes part in the challenge safely, The Trust has created a handy guide which can be downloaded from the Canal & River Trust website.
To find out how you can join the Canal & River Trust’s Plastics Challenge, visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/plastic or follow us on social media @CanalRiverTrust #PlasticsChallenge.