Plastic rubbish in Thames ‘too much to stomach’ say PLA clean-up campaigners

Fish sculptured from plastic dumped in Thames [photos: Todd-White]

Fish sculptured from plastic dumped in Thames [photos: Todd-White] - Credit: PLA

An artwork made entirely from non-degradable litter being dumped in the Thames aims to show the public the shock number of fish found with plastic in their gut.

Fish sculptured from plastic dumped in Thames [photos: Todd-White]

Fish sculptured from plastic dumped in Thames [photos: Todd-White] - Credit: PLA

Michelle Reader’s Bellyful of Plastic made with rubbish collected from the river is part of the Cleaner Thames campaign by the Port of London Authority with Thames 21, Tideway and Totally Thames environment organisations.

It follows research at London’s Royal Holloway University showing three-out-of-four Thames flounder fish and one-in-five smelt fish that were studied had consumed plastic.

“It was a little disturbing to see the sheer number of balls and discarded cotton buds in the water,” Michelle said. “I want to make people think about what happens to their waste, by drawing them in to take a closer look.”

Fish sculptured from plastic dumped in Thames [photos: Todd-White]

Fish sculptured from plastic dumped in Thames [photos: Todd-White] - Credit: PLA

Michelle used litter collected by the PLA on the 95-mile stretch of the tidal Thames for her sculpture showing a shoal of smelt, including containers, bottles, shoes and even hats.


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The river authority collects 300 tonnes of driftwood and litter from the Thames every year, much it plastic material, equal in weight to 24,000 throw-away bottles which damage the marine environment.

One of the worst spots is the loop around the Isle of Dogs in east London which traps tonnes of rubbish in the river bend that gets washed up by the outgoing tide.

Fish sculptured from plastic dumped in Thames [photos: Todd-White]

Fish sculptured from plastic dumped in Thames [photos: Todd-White] - Credit: PLA

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PLA environment manager Tanya Ferry said: “The waste being dumped is simply hard to stomach—which is why we’re working to clean up the Thames.”

The problem is that plastic doesn’t biodegrade and is often ingested by wildlife mistaking it as food.

The Thames is home to 125 different fish species, 300,000 wintering birds, 900 seals and nine sites of special scientific interest.

The campaign aims to stop the tide of rubbish ending up in the Thames and is urging the public to make sure it goes in the bin—not the river. A Bellyful of Plastic is visiting sites along the Thames to raise awareness of the litter problem.

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