West Leeds: Calls to prevent plastic pollution in our canals and rivers

Photo: Mark Stevenson

Waterways and wellbeing charity Canal & River Trust is calling on people to help stop half a million pieces of plastic reaching the ocean by pledging to join its Plastics Challenge.

In the past six months the charity has seen a 68% increase in reports from the public about unsightly litter on the towpath and in its canals and rivers, including the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and River Aire which both run through West Leeds.

Figures show that reports had more than doubled during the month of June this year, compared with the same time last year.

The increase is likely to be down to an increased public awareness of the plastics issue and the fact that in many urban areas towpath usage has dramatically increased during the coronavirus lockdown – with people staying local and discovering their local canal towpath for the first time.

In the UK usage of the towpath has increased dramatically and reports of litter has increased by 68 per cent.

Many families will be looking for activities to do over the coming months and the Canal & River Trust’s Plastics Challenge offers an opportunity for people to get outdoors and make a big difference to their local area. If every time someone visited their local canal or river they picked up and disposed of just one piece of plastic, within a year there would be no plastic left.

Peter Birch, National Environmental Policy Advisor at Canal & River Trust, said:

“Every year 14 million pieces of plastic end up in and around our canals and rivers and these plastic bottles, food wrappers, bags and straws can be harmful for the fish, swans, ducks and birds that make the canals their home.

“By making a pledge to support our Plastics Challenge and taking part in a litter pick with your family, or on your own as part of your daily exercise, you are making a commitment to helping the local wildlife too.”

Whilst people need to carefully follow Government guidelines on social distancing and washing their hands, the Trust is asking visitors to carry out a short litter pick while enjoying some exercise at their local canal or river.

To ensure everyone takes part in the challenge safely it’s created a handy guide which can be downloaded from the Canal & River Trust website.

To make a pledge to support the Canal & River Trust’s Plastics Challenge, visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/plasticschallenge or follow us on social media @CanalRiverTrust  #PlasticsChallenge

The charity would love to hear from people who have taken the challenge and is encouraging people to share their photos on social media with the #PlasticsChallenge


  1. With regard to litter, especially plastics, litter doesn’t get there by itself. I wondered if the rules on litter and the fine for littering applies to canal towpaths? If not we should get the bylaw changed. Towpaths are highways.


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