Comedian Bill Bailey was among those supporting a mass clear up of the river on Friday. More than 250 paddleboarders, organised by Active 360, the paddleboarding company based in the arches at Kew Bridge, fished all manner of plastic rubbish out of the Thames in what they think is the biggest clean up operation on a river by paddleboard.
Founder and director of Active 360. Paul Hyman, told me they organise regular clear-ups of the river and canals. They’re fully aware that as fast as they clear up, more plastic waste will be dropped and end up in the water, where it gets washed out to sea causing problems for wildlife, or gets snagged in the trees and bushes along the waterline, looking an unsightly mess. What they hope is that gradually people will change their behaviour and stop using single use plastics and chucking them away.
Active 360 are behind the In the Drink campaign which has been effective in persuading pubs, especially riverside pubs, to ditch plastic straws and single use plastic cups in favour of polypropylene ones which are more robust and can be returned for the repayment of a deposit. Environment Secretary Michael Gove recently announced the banning of plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds in England, except in specific circumstances for people with medical conditions. Paul welcomes this as a step in the right direction, but says it’s a tiny gesture which really only scratches the surface of what needs to be done.
Photographs by Robert Piwko – robertpiwko.co.uk London Fire Brigade members stationed at Heston, casting a watchful eye over paddleboarders out for a bit of fun as well as a serious deep clean
Those who took part on Friday worked their way down to Richmond, where ‘Be Richmond’ – Richmond’s Business District – got behind the initiative and had organised pedestrians, including local school children, to help out by picking up litter from along the shore. Six of the pubs in the centre of Richmond have come together to use a shared cup, which can be returned to any of the bars, in a bid to reduce the amount of trash ending up in the river. That’s a great initiative says Paul. “Some people are really responsive. Others are just intransigent”. On his hit list are rugby fans who regularly invade Twickenham, leaving a mountain of plastic rubbish behind them, and some of the party boat operators in central London. We should all start demanding that the venues we use for entertainment stop using single use plastic, he says and gradually it will make a difference.
Active 360 are members of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme. Should you fancy trying it out, take advantage of our discount here.