Call to stop hundreds of thousands of bits of plastic reaching the ocean

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A call has been made to stop littering the countryside and prevent hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic reaching the ocean.

Waterways and wellbeing charity Canal & River Trust is asking people across South Yorkshire to take its plastics challenge either by binning their rubbish when out and about, taking it home, or picking up litter.

The charity usually relies heavily on volunteers to clear waterways of plastic and litter, but has had to put this on hold. At the same time there has been an increase in people using towpaths – and associated rubbish.

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Although Sheffield has seen a decline in footfall since the lockdown began, many rural and suburban areas have seen an increase as people use towpaths for exercise, such as along the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal between Victoria Quays in the city centre and the River Don at Templeborough, Rotherham.

Stuart Moodie, heritage and environment manager for the trust in Yorkshire and North East, said: “Our canals are great on-the-doorstep places for people to enjoy.

“However, the unintended consequence is 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.

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“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.”

Every year, 14 million pieces of plastic end up in and around our canals and rivers and these bottles, food wrappers, bags and straws can be harmful for wildlife.

Mr Moodie said: “Staying close to home has become more important in recent times and for many people their local canal or river will have brought vital wellbeing at a time of anxiety.

“Sadly, litter remains an issue and every year enough plastic to fill 20,000 bin bags are washed from our canals and rivers into the ocean. The canals have been there for people during lockdown and we need people to help look after them to ensure they remain a place everyone can enjoy.”

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