Thames plastic waste pollution is poisoning river fish, Port of London Authority fears

Volunteers at the Isle of Dogs cleaning up ther Thames opposite Greenwich

Volunteers at the Isle of Dogs cleaning up ther Thames opposite Greenwich - Credit: Archant

Plastic rubbish dumped in the river is destroying marine life in the Thames, an east London MP has warned.

Volunteers at the Isle of Dogs cleaning up ther Thames opposite Greenwich

Volunteers at the Isle of Dogs cleaning up ther Thames opposite Greenwich - Credit: Archant

The “rising tide” litter has doubled in the last five years, with the Port of London Authority now having to remove 300 tonnes of plastics a year, such as bottles.

“We collect the equivalent weight of 24,000 plastic bottles a year,” the PLA’s environment manager Tanya Ferry said. “But this is just the tip of the iceberg—the sheer volume of rubbish is having an impact on the marine environment which is home to birds, fish and seals.”

A study found three-quarters of the flatfish species, flounder, have plastic poisoning.

Aquatic ecology expert Dr Dave Morritt told MPs at Westminster last week: “We now have evidence that flounder have plastic fibre is in their gut.”


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The poison could get into the food chain if chemicals from plastics leach into fish tissues and are then accumulated in other fish and birds feeding on them, he warned.

Chairing the Parliamentary Group was MP Jim Fitzpatrick, whose Poplar & Limehouse constituency along the Thames in east London, between Wapping and the Isle of Dogs, is among the worst polluted part of the river.

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He said: “We need to get people to be more responsible in disposing their waste if we’re to tackle the causes of litter entering the marine environment.”

The cost of cleaning up the Thames was a burden often falling on taxpayers or volunteers, he added.

The Port authority is running a clean-up awareness campaign with the Natural History Museum and the Marine Conservation Society to persuade the public to make sure rubbish goes in the bin—not in the Thames.

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