Residents living close to the Medway and its tributaries are being called on to take action against plastic pollution by joining a new River Guardians Team with the South East Rivers Trust (SERT).
The waterways charity, which is providing free River Guardian kits, is asking people to adopt their local stretch of river and carry out regular litter picks alongside the banks to keep the water plastic free.
The kits includes a litter picker, hoop, gloves and first bag, as well as information on how to report other issues affecting the river such as pollution. The keenest River Guardians can sign up for extra equipment to monitor the types of litter found and become Plastic Champions.
Hundreds of volunteers will be needed to cover the 70-mile River Medway. The river network stretches from Ashdown Forest in Sussex through towns such as Tonbridge and Maidstone in Kent all the way to the Thames Estuary and English Channel.
SERT, which has a well-established army of about 120 River Guardians on three south London rivers, is extending this work through Preventing Plastic Pollution (PPP) – with a focus on the river Medway.
Gloria Francalanci, Plastics Project Manager at SERT, said: “We’ve seen through our Preventing Plastic Pollution cleanups just how passionate individuals and groups are when it comes to keeping plastic out of rivers. They are always shocked at the scale of the problem.
“This is a real chance for everyone in the community to help stop plastic entering our rivers and harming wildlife. Statistics from the Preventing Plastic Pollution project show that eight million tonnes of plastic reach our oceans from rivers annually. With plastic production set to double in the next 20 years, we cannot be complacent.”
SERT’s PPP volunteers have taken huge strides to demonstrate the problem of plastic litter on the Medway and the Trust hopes communities will be inspired to follow suit by becoming River Guardians.
During a year of cleanups organised by SERT and various partners, nearly 400 volunteers have collected a tonne of litter from 17 cleanups – and a huge amount of it was plastic.
This activity is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and has additional local support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.