Shocking results exposed a dirty secret as volunteers from local charity, Living River Foundation conducted the first Litter Critter event in the Medway Estuary.
Emma and Bonita Baker-Robins and Jess Taylor were joined by Mayor of Medway, Habib Tejan, to clear litter from the foreshore in the difficult to reach and see places across the Estuary; they found that after only ten minutes they had collected a huge amount of waste. In total the group collected over 7 sacks of plastic sheeting, sanitary items, wrappers and ropes, they also collected over 3 builders sacks of hard plastic which the Living River Foundation is collecting for recycling with Terracycle.
Living River Foundation has worked hard building relationships with many organisations and regulators to get this first Litter Critter island blitz off the ground, with small groups of volunteers being given exclusive access to the area in September as part of local action for the KBT & MCS Great British Beach Clean and World Clean Up Day. Access to the islands is restricted to avoid disturbing the important number of birds that use them for breeding and feeding for the rest of the year. It is challenging to safely access these areas and the volunteers were supported by trained skippers and staff from Jetstream Tours.
A second event had a smaller group of three volunteers who tackled a different part of the estuary, while the tide allowed access, and collected 6 sacks of cans, ropes and wrappers, as well as two builders sacks of hard plastics, mostly bottles. Many had to be left behind as they were buried under the important saltmarsh habitat.
Richard Bain, co-founder of Living River Foundation said, ‘When we planned these clean ups it was based on what we could see from the river. I have travelled past the island on a boat all my life and this is the first time I have been on shore, it was shocking to see how bad it had got.’
Mayor of Medway, Cllr Habib Tejan, said: “I was pleased to help with this project and I would like to thank all of the volunteers who gave their time to help remove litter from the shore. We are committed to helping keep Medway clean and tidy and I would encourage residents to do their bit for their local area.”
A lot of litter gets discarded every year, or lost from the waste system; some of it gets cleared up but experts now think that over 8 million tonnes of plastic enters our seas from land, some will enter via the rivers and estuaries. Estuaries will hold on to the litter for longer as the tide will push it back up into the habitats that are important for flood storage, carbon capture and many of our important marine animals and plants. The foundation counted over a hundred bottles during a high tide on St Marys Island in their Litter Free Maritime project. http://living-river.org/announcement-medway-estuary-spits-out-our-litter
- The Medway Estuary is protected for estuarine and wetland habitats for over wintering and breeding birds and nursery areas for fish, they are protected by National, European and International regulations and managed by Natural England, Landowners and NGO’s such as the RSPB
- Disturbance is one of the largest issues for the birds in our urban estuaries, for more information on how to act responsibly see the local councils project https://birdwise.org.uk/
- Access to the wilder parts of the estuary is not an easy task, with strong currents, thick mud and sand, the public must be well equipped before attempting to access more remote areas where mobile signal may be limited
- The Living River Foundation is a not for profit organisation set up to raise awareness to protect and improve the local estuaries. It helps create awareness of the impact that our way of life is having on the environment and how everyone can do something to improve the environment.
- Projects include Volunteers monitoring microplastics, carrying out litter picks and working with the community to encourage change and improving awareness in Chatham.