Keeping waterways clear: the importance of litter picking
Litter picking along the riverbank can have a far greater impact than removing litter from a pathway, but do you know why?
We’ve all been undoubtedly angered by the sight of a rogue plastic bottle, takeaway food packaging or disposable vapes dumped in nearby bushes or strewn across the pavement, but the cumulative effect of litter on our waterways is something that we take incredibly seriously at Tyne Rivers Trust.
It’s no secret that litter can release toxic chemicals and entangle animals. Microplastics pose major risks to animals and humans if ingested; when small plastic pieces are ingested by wildlife these contaminants can be passed into their tissues and from there, move up the food chain. In some cases, plastic that is too large to eat can trap wildlife or tangle around them, resulting in reduced mobility or even death.
Plastic and organic litter can also change the structure of river habitats, reducing light levels in the water beneath the debris, and even deplete much-needed oxygen in the water. All of these factors contribute to a poor habitat, ill-suited to support the aquatic plants and animals that rely on it for food and shelter, damaging the ecosystem of the river.
At Tyne Rivers Trust our goal is to act as the voice of the Tyne river and its tributaries, and litter picks organised by us with volunteers are just one important way to do just that. Stepping away from the worrying impact litter has on wildlife and the ecosystem of the river, it’s fair to say a riverbank full of discarded waste does not make a pleasant place for anyone to want to visit and spend time there.
The good news is that a lot of this litter is a solvable problem. While no good system for removing microplastics or chemical contaminants exists yet, we river guardians can take time to litter pick and remove that waste from the water.
If you’d like to join us on our next litter pick, we’ll be covering the River Don in South Tyneside as part of our Total River Therapy project. Join us from 10am on Thursday 16th November at Primrose Nature Reserve.
To sign up call Maddy on 01434 636900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org