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Plastic accounts for 60% of litter in English and Welsh canals

Guardian ‘Abandoned plastics now account for 59% of the litter found in canals in England and Wales, according to new research which also reveals that more than half a million plastic items reach the oceans every year from the waterway network. The new findings are from the Canal & River Trust – the charity that looks after 2,000 miles of canals and river navigations – and which says that with the support of local communities both figures could be cut drastically.

With help from Coventry University, the charity has published a detailed analysis of the plastics and other litter found in the canals, based on data from 25 rural and urban locations. While plastics now account for 59% of waste found along and in the canals, it is estimated that 570,000 items of plastic end up in the world’s oceans each year via its waterways.

The charity spends more than £1m every year to help keep its waterways free of plastics and other litter – money that could be spent in other ways – but says that if every visitor picked up and recycled just one piece of plastic on each visit, the network could be plastic-free in a year.

The Trust is urging communities to take action on their doorstep to clean up their local neighbourhood and help tackle the global plastics crisis. Visitors and passers-by could make their own small contribution to help keep canals clear of plastics, it says, whether by picking up and recycling a piece each time they visit, joining the Trust’s growing band of volunteers, or even “adopting” a short stretch of their local canal with friends, neighbours or colleagues.

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