Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Cleaning the Thames

Some visitors to this blog are coming with a question in mind. According to the hit counter they typed into Google a question asking something like how clean is the Thames?

And that is a good question to which a firm answer is often hard. It is cleaner than (say) Bonnie's Gowanus Canal (is it me or is that a bit of a name to snigger about) but it still a bit mucky. Previous posts have blogged what happens when you let Thames water settle and how it is reported on TV.

But today I have an answer of sorts, namely that it is cleaner than at the start of this week. For today and yesterday there have been clean up events organised by the Thames 21 charity.

The idea was to take advantage of the lowest day time tide for 5 years, with at places 0.2m below datum. Unfortunately that wasn't what we saw, as a stiff easterly wind kept the water level up by 0.8m (according to the PLA's live tide gauges).

At 11 am this morning around a hundred of us met at the south side of Hammersmith Bridge where we were given red plastic gloves and black plastic bags and after the inevitable safety briefing were out on the river shore doing our civic bit. It was a good mix of young and old, men and women (slightly more men I think) and a good cross section of the communities of London.

I'd love to tell you about all the wonderful bits of rubbish but it was pretty dull stuff. There were lots of female sanitary pads - so many we felt it must be a bag that had dumped. Random bits of rope and metal, plastic tags from clothes, lots of bits of rags (the carpet we called it), and of course plastic bags.

There were a lot more plastic bags at the Dockland sites, which was ironic given they were joined by representatives from the major supermarkets.

But the really interesting bits of rubbish came from yesterday's Fulham "Deep Clean" in which they found a Civil War helmet and a hand grenade!

No dramas for us, just filled collecting boxes and that inner warm glow that comes from doing your bit.

After two hours it was time to head home for a warming lunch and to fill up the washing machine. The Thames might be a bit cleaner but my clothes most definitely weren't.


my2fish said...

jp, that's awesome of you to join the group and do a part to cleaning it up. in my college days, our fraternity sponsored a section of a local highway and we cleaned garbage along the road a few times a year. every little bit helps.

good work! my2fish

Carol Anne said...

Plastic grocery bags are awful -- even the ones that are supposedly biodegradable really aren't. Part of the problem is that they're so lightweight, even when people have no intention of littering, the wind will snatch them away.

Unfortunately, paper bags aren't so great either. Even "recycled" ones have to have a certain amount of new material in them, because recycled paper fibers don't have enough strength to make a sturdy bag. If you look strictly at production issues, plastic bags are environmentally sounder than paper.

So there's the idea of bringing one's own reusable bags to the grocery store. That's beginning to catch on in the US, at least in upscale areas. In stores that serve lower-income areas, such bags are viewed as potential accessories to shoplifting, and therefore people who bring their own bags are subject to very uncomfortable scrutiny by store personnel. It's not pleasant.

So, once again, being sensitive to the environment is a privilege of the well-off, a luxury the less fortunate can't afford.

michael b said...

At our house, we make tote bags out of material left from other (usually boat related) projects.

JP said...

I've seen the Thames 21 teams out there a couple of times but this was the first time was able to manage to join them.

It is good to feel managed to do something but looking out today saw a plastic bag floating by and my heart sank.

Plastic is the pits, I must try again to use re-usable bags as much as possible.