The Blue Planet Effect is taking the world by storm. It brings all communities together to tackle our dependency on single use plastic. Thanks to the increase of awareness that various documentaries, social media posts and news articles are spreading, the global impact of plastic on the environment is becoming vital common knowledge. We now know that plastics do not break down, but instead break up into smaller fragments that exist in the environment for a scary amount of time. We can do something about this. The ban on plastic straws throughout the University of Reading is just one step that has been taken by students towards reducing the harmful everyday risks humans have on the environment.
There has been a huge focus on ocean plastics, but have you ever thought about rivers? Research has identified rivers as major pathways for plastics entering the ocean1. This clearly highlights that we need to act sooner to prevent waste following this path. Every week Reading Knights Canoe Club paddles the River Kennet and River Thames and each time this happens there is a shocking amount of waste that lies floating alongside the riverbanks. Products that could so easily be recycled or properly disposed of are collecting at the river edge, creating a huge list of problems for the environment and the wildlife that so desperately depend on it.
Kayaking along a river gives you a unique view of some of the UK’s beautiful wildlife, with a high chance of seeing river birds such as herons, kingfishers and dippers on our trips. However, there is also the exposure of seeing the extent of waste pollution in the environment; plastic bottles, disposable coffee cups, plastic bags, crisp packets, shoes – you name it. As we’ve seen in the news, fragments of these products can be ingested by wildlife, entering the food-chain and increasing mortality rates in various species.
But there is still hope.
Reading Knights Canoe Club are holding a River Clean Up on Saturday 24th November to give something back to the rivers we enjoy every week, and your support would be extremely appreciated. The Canoe Club will be fundraising for the Thames River Trust, promoting their work alongside Action for the River Kennet, Thames21 and the River Thame Conservation Trust. Donations will be collected on Thursday 22nd November on Whitenights Campus, as well as on the day of the clean-up. You can find more information about these organisations and the fantastic conservation projects they deliver by visiting their websites online.
If you would like to get involved, you’re support would be thoroughly appreciated, big or small! This is a great opportunity to boost your CV or add to your RED Award. Volunteers are needed to fundraise or litter-pick along the riverside as we paddle from County Weir (just past the Oracle) to our boat shed at Wokingham Waterside Centre. There will be hot chocolates as a reward at the end! If you would like to support the conservation work in the area, please visit our GoFundMe page! The goal is to raise £200 but let’s see if we can beat that total!
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1 Export of Plastic Debris by Rivers into the Sea, Christian Schmidt, Tobias Krauth, and Stephan Wagner, Environmental Science & Technology 2017 51 (21), 12246-12253, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b02368
Writers: Jessie Saunders, Jasmin Urwick