Plastic Waste in Rivers

A growing problem in the UK is the amount of plastic that ends up in rivers.  Plastic is not biodegradable and so builds up either on the surface of the water or sinks to the bottom. Plastic bottles, take-away containers, packaging and discarded toys pollute our waterways. This pollution not only is a blight on the landscape but also is dangerous to river ecosystems.

How does plastic get into our rivers?

Some people throw their rubbish into rivers but the most common way for plastic to get into the water is when it is blown or washed in during periods of high rainfall. This littering of streams and rivers is difficult to prevent and will always happen particularly in periods of  bad weather.

What are the impacts of plastic waste in our rivers?

Perhaps surprisingly not all the impacts of plastic floating in the water are negative. Water fowl collect pieces of plastic to create their nests. Fish seek shelter in plastic containers on the river bed. Microplastics however are a different problem as they can be eaten by fish and so enter the food chain.  We do not know the long term consequences of the build up of plastic in the environment.

What are the solutions?

Volunteers spend hours fishing plastic rubbish out of our streams, rivers and canals. These people do a sterling job but the main solution is to stop using non-biodegradable plastic in everyday life. Manufacturers should switch to making alternative materials that can ne broken down naturally. The government understands the scale of the problem and is proposing change.

In the meantime, what do you think should be done to solve this important problem? Email me at