While it may be lovely to meander along the Embankment of the River Thames on a sunny day, the Thames is known for more than being the River that spears through London's heart. Unfortunately, as beautiful as it is to look at, it has some of the highest microplastics of any river - in the world.
"The good news is that at My Little Panda, we're not ignoring this threat to our environment. We decided to take on the River Thames plastic and do something about it."
Crabs living in the Thames have previously been found with tiny plastics in their bodies, and the shorelines that people walk past every day and do not see have piles of used wet wipes accumulated in the corners. The level of plastic and rubbish exceeds even rivers like the Rhine and the Danube, which isn't something that we should ignore.
Even today in 2020, people haven't got the message that recyclable materials are better for the environment. They're not paying attention to the information surrounding flushing only tissues and not wet wipes, which don't break down. We're amid a pandemic, and a new threat is looming over the River with the careless disposal of reusable gloves and masks. The good news is that at My Little Panda, we're not ignoring this threat to our environment. We decided to take on the River Thames plastic and do something about it.
After booking canoes, we decided to spend a couple of hours on the River Thames to make a difference to the plastic in the water and on the embankments. Our team, plus a few of our clients, took some bags and hopped into canoes to make a difference to the health of the water - and boy, were we shocked. In the two hours we spent on the water, we collected five full black bags of plastic waste. That's a lot of plastic to find in the River Thames in only two hours. Had we been out on canoes for longer, we could have collected more.
When you walk along the river and admire the view of the landmarks along the edge, you don't pay attention to the waste. Plastic water bottles, discarded packets for cigarettes - ACTUAL cigarette butts, piles of wet wipes washed along the bank. It's a very different experience to see the River Thames from a canoe compared to a leisurely stroll. It also goes to show much we choose not to see. Nobody stops and looks directly down to find plastic waste, and we should be. Plastic waste was one thing, but dead birds in the River and along the banks were also a feature, and these can attract other bugs and even rats, making the River Thames even more contaminated than it already is. At My Little Panda, we've done our bit to make a difference to the River, but it takes more than just us.
Environmental Impact of River Thames Plastic There has been plenty of studies at the Royal Holloway to show that the level of plastic currently in the water could potentially affect the organisms in the River Thames. Single-use plastics are already a problem, and with the level of disposal of these products going directly into the River Thames, we need to do better.
The studies also point out that in terms of pollutants such as trace metals, the River Thames is cleaner than it used to be - but it's still not clean enough. It's not just plants that are in the River Thames, but animals, too. Crabs are ingesting microplastics, birds are ingesting plastic pieces every day, and with them dying by the River, the water becomes even more contaminated.
“The studies also point out that in terms of pollutants such as trace metals, the River Thames is cleaner than it used to be - but it's still not clean enough."
Cleaning Up Our Behaviour While My Little Panda has taken the time to canoe onto the water to clean up as much plastic as we could reach in two hours, we all need to work together to do more. The plastic waste littering the water doesn't have to be there - but we all need to make sure that we are using the right rubbish bins. We need to recycle where we can reuse where we can, and we need to pay attention when we're told not to flush baby wipes!