Ways to reduce plastic waste afloat

Programmes like Blue Planet II and Our Planet have highlighted the damage plastic is wreaking on our oceans and the animals that live there.

Sadly our beautiful inland waterways are also affected by plastic waste – and a staggering 80 per cent of marine debris comes from inland sources.

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.  And remember to use eco-friendly washing up liquid as the water you’ve used to wash-up with will drain into the canal.
  2. 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 and we suggest bringing one large bottle or canteen to top up at water points for drinking water.
  3. Bring your own shopping bags – remember to pack your re-useable bags every time you shop and avoid products with excess packaging.
  4. Make use of recycling facilities – most canalside rubbish compounds only accept boaters’ bagged domestic rubbish, but there are an increasing number of boaters’ recycling points available, so look out for them.  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.
  5. Bag all rubbish – and make sure the bags are tied securely so that they can’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.
  6. 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.
  7. Help clean up – by joining one of the many Plastic Patrol or Canal & River Trust Towpath Taskforce events taking place across the country.  Or if you don’t fancy taking part in an organised event, why not pledge to pick up and dispose of at least one piece of canalside litter a day while on your narrowboat holiday?