Estuary litter and plastic

Litter in the estuary as important as the Medway is very bad, the animals and plants suffer as a result of it entering into the tidal river.  It gets into the river in a number ways;

  • it can be dropped accidentally or delibrately into the river
  • it can be flushed down a drain that isn’t properly collected or not treated (small plastic particles move through treatment plants)
  • it can be dropped on land or come out of a container like an overfull or uncovered bin and then; 
    • be blown in – like bags or wrappers
    • be washed in via the road drains or being right on the edge of the river when the tide rises, 

The best ways to avoid litter entering is to reduce the amount we create, reuse as much as possible and responsibly dispose of any rubbish we do create.  

Birds will make nests out of plastic items and can try to feed their chicks with plastic. Small animals and fish can eat small pieces of plastic as they sift through the mud, these are eaten by bigger fish and other animals.  Some animals can pass through the plastic, but animals like crabs cannot, they have been found with in the mouth of the medway with plastic fibres in their stomachs. If too much plastic is in the animals stomach it does feel hungry.  

Birds, fish and marine mammals like seals can get tangled in large items like rope, sacks, can yokes even frisbees.  Some litter will break down, but as it does it releases all the chemicals within it, and can take oxygen out 

The islands that we have cleared have plastic under the plants, you can hear the crunch of bottles as you walk, and in some areas you can see the ropes and sheets under the ground.

Plastic is particularly bad for the estuary as it doesn’t break down in the estuary, even the bioplastic and compostable plastic. It will break into smaller and smaller pieces over time, due to the exposure to sunlight, dragged over the bed of the river, catching on other items in the river and the wave and tide energy of the estuary. 

The Foundation is working to increase understanding, take action and monitor the litter in the Medway estuary.  Find out more about the projects below.  

Clean ups on the islands in the medway and along the paths. Collecting items for recycling, returning others to the right waste streams.

Litter Critters

Working to make the Chatham Maritime area litter free, working with businesses, community and visitors.

Litter Free Maritime

Creating art to help share the impact of litter on the local estuary, with local artist, crafters and local children.

Slice of Medway #Litterarma

The Foundation also monitors the amount of small plastic pieces, called microplastics, in the Thames and Medway estuary.

If you would like to join our events follow us on Facebook or Eventbrite. For events at Chatham Historic Dockyard in February and March 2022 Book directly here

if you’d like to help us run the events so we can get even more litter out of the estuary, become a volunteer and sign up to be a clean up host, microplastics surveyor or liaison officer for events.