Features

Plasticblitz 2023

River-Roding-May-2019-3--(c)-Anna-MacLaughlinRiver Roding © Anna MacLaughlin

Sarah Thornley from Thames21 invites you to help clean up a stretch of the River Roding adjacent to Wanstead Park as part of Plasticblitz 2023, an annual mass cleanup of UK water bodies

Plasticblitz is an annual, simultaneous mass cleanup of waste from water bodies and citizen science data collection. Participating groups are asked to collect data on the types of plastic pollution they find during their events, building evidence to evaluate the extent to which plastic and other materials are threatening our rivers. This data feeds into the EU-wide Preventing Plastic Pollution project and can be used to educate, create publicity and lobby for change.

Plastic pollution is a serious and growing problem within our rivers. Plastic waste threatens wildlife through ingestion and entanglement, and slowly breaks down into tiny plastic fragments (microplastics) which can work their way into the food chain. Once plastic enters our rivers, there is no statutory obligation for any organisation or public body to remove it. This has resulted in plastic waste being allowed to accumulate in our rivers where it can then be carried out to sea. Shockingly, 80% of plastic pollution found in the sea has passed through rivers and streams on its way there. Many of our rivers are therefore acting as plastic ‘taps’, allowing a constant stream of plastic from inland areas to flow into the sea.

This is the first time the Plasticblitz is going UK-wide. Previously, Thames21 worked with Environment Agency teams, community groups and river action groups to remove plastic waste from just the River Thames and its tributaries. Now, groups across the UK are invited to survey and improve their rivers using this initiative. Last year, nearly 500 volunteers collected 437 bags of rubbish across the Thames and its tributaries. A total of 14,581 items were individually categorised, with 85% of this being plastic. The worst plastic offenders were wet wipes, bottle tops, sweet wrappers and cigarette stubs.

Vision RCL Nature Conservation Ranger Tajinder Lachhar will be leading the cleanup along a 700m stretch of the River Roding adjacent to Wanstead Park on 11 June. “We will start at Wanstead Park Recreation Ground, working our way along the bank up north, along the River Roding. With enough volunteers, we should get up to the Wanstead Park Road Allotments,” said Tajinder. The River Roding is London’s third-longest tributary of the Thames. It rises at Molehill Green in Essex before flowing 50km south, through East London, meeting the Thames at Barking.

The Plasticblitz has gone from strength to strength since it started in 2021. This year, it will be bigger and better than ever, and if you’d like to be a part of it and improve your local river – as well as the wider environment – grab your wellies and come along.


The Plasticblitz on the River Roding will take place on 11 June from 10am to 1pm. Meet at Wanstead Park Recreation Ground, off Wanstead Park Road, Ilford, IG1 3TS. For more information, and to view the results, visit wnstd.com/plastic