Fifty bags worth of litter was pulled from the River Lea by volunteers in canoes as part of Thames21’s Love the Lea project.
Thames21, one of the country’s leading waterway charities, decided to use canoes to remove litter because the reeds in the river were too overgrown for boats to go in with cranes.
The project intended to highlight the affects of littering on wildlife. Rubbish in the river can often float and get trapped once it hits vegetation.
Ben Fenton, 32, a project manager at Thames21, said: “We work with the Canal & River Trust who manage the waterways and we engage local volunteers in cleaning up the river while giving them a chance to do a bit of canoeing, which lots of people have never done before”
The litter was removed from the Lea Navigation section of the river where reed beds provide habitats for wildlife and break down pollutants within the river.
Volunteers came to show their support, despite the poor weather conditions. Liam Brennan, 22, from Bow said: “I wanted to give back to the community as I strongly feel that littering is a big issue and the fact that people dismiss it is wrong; if you care about where you live then you should respect it. By doing this we are setting an example for the younger generation.”
Jack Newman, 51, who works for the Canal & River Trust said: “This cause is brilliant and people need to be a part of this because you can make such a fantastic difference not only to the waterway but to the way it looks for people.”
Chris Lane, 29, from Bromley by Bow said: “I can see the litter from my balcony and I thought I would do something about it. There is a sense of guilt even though I’m not one of the people who is throwing stuff in the canal, but it makes me quite angry and it’s pretty irritating to see.”
Thames21 say the impact of plastic on the ecosystem is a main issue. “Much of the litter that gets picked up is plastic and polystyrene. These types of material never break down and when it makes its way from the rivers, like where we are now, in to the sea, fish and birds eat it, mistaking it for food,” Fenton said.
As well as the canoe clean up initiative Thames21 is inviting people to get involved with other events and are looking for volunteers for the Reedbed Planting project where 90m of new reed bed will be planted as the River Lea suffers from high levels of pollution.