The world generates around 3.5 million tonnes of solid waste every day. Unfortunately, the majority of this waste is not disposed of in a safe and sustainable way for the environment. The reality is that our planet cannot cope with this amount of pollution, and calls to reduce plastic and other waste have increased in urgency in recent years. Marine and freshwater environments, in particular, are very sensitive to pollution caused by irresponsible handling of waste.
As such, London Rivers Week is an event committed to improving, rewilding, cleaning and restoring rivers in London to protect ecosystems and endangered species. Running from 24th October to 1st November, this year’s London Rivers Week will host a number of socially-distanced and virtual events and activities such as webinars and podcasts, as well as river walks and cleanups to celebrate London’s many rivers, lakes and streams.
From helping with natural flood management to learning more about wildlife and the issues facing rivers, there are many activities you can take part in. You can also expect to:
- Discover more about aquatic habitats
- Learn about the work being done to protect wildlife and rivers in London
- Take part in urban river regeneration and enhancement, such as installing new habitats
- Gain a better understanding of ecology, biodiversity and landscapes
- Discover the 20-year history of river restoration in London, including advancements in sustainable development
- The importance of replacing concrete, metal and brick tidal walls with different, softer habitats
- Take part in assessing and cleaning up litter and plastic pollution
How can you help London’s waterways by reducing plastic waste?
Each year, Thames21 and the Port of London Authority remove up to 200 tonnes of waste from the Thames, the majority of which is plastic. Much of this includes food wrappers, cotton bud sticks and drink bottles. In fact, 83% of items found on the foreshore is made up of single-use plastic products.
Since plastic is an affordable, versatile and durable material, it can be found in everything from packaging materials to plastic bottles, straws and bags. Plastic items typically have a very short lifespan and the disposal of such items is often mismanaged, winding up in landfills, oceans and waterways. The decomposition rate of plastic can vary depending on the type. However, this typically ranges from 50 to 600 years. Most of the plastic litter that ends up polluting London’s streams and rivers can easily be avoided.
As such, London Rivers Week is one of the many initiatives that have helped clean up London’s waterways to better protect habitats and ecosystems — with a total of 14.6 miles of rivers restored between 2008 and 2017.
In addition, part of keeping London’s rivers and waterways clean is about being proactive. This includes ensuring the adoption of an effective long-term waste management strategy and adopting sustainable waste reduction and recycling best practices.
So what can you do to help?
- Conduct an audit to identify how much plastic is currently being used to see where improvements can be made
- Work with suppliers to ensure they use eco-friendly options and packaging rather than single-use plastic
- Eliminate all single-use plastic within the business such as bottles, bags, straws and cutlery, and opt for reusable materials/items
- Buy products with recycled content or made from natural materials such as wood, glass and metal
- For businesses that sell drinks containers, set up a deposit return scheme (DRS) where the cost of the deposit is added to the price of the drink. This can then be redeemed once the empty drink container is brought to a designated return point. See here for information on deposit return schemes.
Take a moment to download our recycling guide
If you’re looking to find out more about the various ways you can enhance your business’ recycling and waste management, download our recycling guide, ‘The ultimate guide to real recycling for businesses in Westminster.’
This guide will equip you with the information and resources you need to become more sustainable and environmentally-friendly as a business — from discovering the four basics of better waste management to getting started with incorporating recycling best practices in your business.