6. Rubbish In large cities

People produce huge amount of rubbish. Some of this rubbish is not disposed of property and may end up in rivers and other waterways. Much modern rubbish is designed to last, and may take hundreds of years to disappear. Rubbish not only looks bad, but can be harmful to animals that live in or near the river.

All the litter in the river comes from people. Floating rubbish gets left on the foreshore twice daily by the tide and is an obvious form of pollution that threatens wildlife. Because the river flows in as well as out, the same piece of rubbish can take months to make its way down to the sea. Rubbish gets into the river in all sorts of ways. It is a convenient rubbish bin for passers by, a dump for supermarket trolleys and for builders’ rubble. Some rubbish just gets blown in or is washed from the street down the drain into the river. Some enters the river via the sewage system).

How long the rubbish stays in the river depends on what it is made of. Some plastics are not biodegradable and take years to break up and disappear. Other materials such as paper degrades quickly. Metals and pottery can last thousands of years – the foreshore is an excellent place to investigate the rubbish of past generations of Londoners! Some rubbish floats and gets washed out to sea. Items like supermarket trolleys tend to stay in the same place.

Impact

* rubbish looks ugly and makes people think that the Thames is dirtier than it is and not worth caring for * creatures can get trapped inside rubbish like bottles, packets and plastic bags * fishing lines and can holders can ensnare both birds and fish * sharp objects such as fishing hooks and broken bottles are a danger to humans as well as to the wildlife * polystyrene from such things as cups and packaging breaks down into small pieces and can get eaten by birds.

What we can do?

* never drop litter – take it home with you if you can’t find a bin * make sure you put litter in a bin so it does not blow out * join Thames21’s Adopt-a-River scheme. This is open to schools, local communities and businesses. Each group adopts and cares for a stretch of the Thames, reports litter and any problems
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