Treasure Your River campaign launches with pirate ships

Two robot pirate ships have set sail in London’s Docklands to launch the UK’s largest ever collaborative push to prevent and reduce the amount of litter entering waterways, and the ocean. Treasure Your River aims to remove 95 tonnes of litter and prevent a further 90 tonnes from entering seven of the UK’s river systems.

Treasure Your River will tackle litter in the rivers Avon, Forth, Mersey, Severn, Taff, Thames and Trent and their tributaries. The campaign is being run by environmental charity Hubbub and supported by the Coca-Cola Foundation (recently cited as the world’s worst plastic polluter and accused of ‘greenwashing’), and will initially focus on prevention and clean-up activities on seven major cities based on these rivers – Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Nottingham, which between them are home to 1 in 6 of the UK population.

The pirate-themed campaign aims to create a legacy for each river, with an army of regular volunteers, litter-clearing equipment and improved ‘binfrastructure’. Large-scale activities like silent disco clean-ups will be combined with educating the public on how they can make a difference through simple behaviour changes such as two-minute litter picks, litter-free picnics and the responsible disposal of fishing tackle.

Hubbub says it will bring a treasure trove of new support to engage local groups, including two Orca-tech robot boats decked out like pirate ships to reach litter that is hard to access along riverbanks. Plastic fishing trips in boats made from 99% recycled plastic will allow people to see first-hand the impact that plastic pollution has on rivers. Groups will also be given an opportunity to create paddleboards from recycled bottles, enabling them to get onto the water to pick litter.  

“As lockdown restrictions are lifted there is increased concern about the amount of litter in our public and green spaces,” says Gavin Ellis, director and co-founder of Hubbub. “Treasure Your River aims to make the connection between litter in our towns and cities and plastic in the oceans, and to offer people something positive they can do about it. The majority of plastics in the oceans are carried there by rivers; the River Mersey for example has proportionately higher levels of microplastic pollution than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We invite any individual or organisations along these rivers to come together and help halt the flow of litter into the sea. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a local business, a sailing club, a school, a charity or a resident.”

The Rivers Trust will independently measure the impact of the campaign, using technology including geotagging of litter reduction activities to create a map of the results of the nation’s collective efforts. This will be shared with partners including the Marine Conservation Society to build a wider map of UK litter. 

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