8 ways to reduce plastic waste on your narrowboat holiday

Programmes like Blue Planet II and Our Planet have highlighted the damage plastic is wreaking on our oceans and the animals that live there.  More recently, David Attenborough’s BBC ‘Extinction’ programme gave a stark warning that 1 million species face extinction, unless we take urgent action now to protect biodiversity.

Our beautiful inland waterways are also affected by plastic waste, posing a threat to our native biodiversity and, as a staggering 80 per cent of marine debris comes from inland sources, to ocean life too.

To help combat the blight of plastic pollution in our canals and rivers, we’ve put together a list of easy ways to reduce the plastic waste you might generate on a canal boat holiday, and to prevent plastic from entering our waterways:

  1. Don’t use products with microbeads – much of the plastic polluting our waterways and oceans is microplastics which derive from bigger items breaking down, but also from consumer products like face wash and toothpaste. Avoid items with ‘polypropylene’ or ‘polyethylene’ on the ingredients list and go for natural biodegradable alternatives.
  2. Use eco-friendly cleaning products – make sure your washing up liquid and other cleaning products are eco-friendly, as the water you’ve used to clean and wash-up with will drain directly into the canal.
  3. Bring a refillable thermos and reusable plastic bottles – so if you stop off to buy a coffee somewhere on your narrowboat holiday you won’t need a disposable cup and you won’t have to buy bottled water. You can use boiled water from the boat’s tank to make a cup of tea or coffee, and we suggest bringing one large bottle or canteen to top up at water points for drinking water.
  4. Bring your own shopping bags – remember to pack your re-useable bags every time you shop and avoid products with excess packaging.
  5. Make use of recycling facilities – there are an increasing number of boaters’ recycling points available and the rubbish you put in the Canal & River Trust’s canalside Biffa bins will be sorted at the depot, with suitable waste sent for recycling.
  6. Bag all rubbish – make sure the bags are tied securely so they don’t spill open. Only dispose of your bagged domestic rubbish inside bins marked domestic waste and don’t forget to close the lid.  If the bins are full, keep your rubbish securely on board until the next available waste disposal point.
  7. Control your fenders – a frightening number of plastic boat fenders end up at the bottom of locks. Don’t leave them dangling when cruising – except bow and stern fenders.  And when your fenders are in use, make sure they are properly secured.
  8. Help clean up – take part in the Canal & River Trust’s Plastics Challenge campaign and pledge to pick up and safely dispose of at least one piece of canalside litter a day while on your narrowboat holiday. For more information, go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/news-and-views/features/plastic-and-litter-in-our-canals