River Rother

We aim to collect and survey rubbish from various stretches along the River Rother twice each year, as collecting data is fundamental to creating change. Without identification and recording, we cannot hope to make any long-lasting changes or take steps to engage people who can, other than by raising awareness.  The rubbish on the banks of the River Rother has many sources: upstream and tidal. By taking a forensic approach, we can begin to discover the story behind this pollution and create steps to stop it. This survey was a brand audit for Break Free From Plastic.

What is a brand audit?

In this case, it is picking up plastic rubbish and waste from a certain measured area, and sifting through to identify by brand, type of use, and type of material. This is the fourth year we have conducted a brand audit and it was by far the largest. Break Free From Plastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution.

Where did we do it?

A one-kilometre stretch along the east bank of the River Rother near Rye, East Sussex

How did we do it?

We went out onto the riverbank at Rye over four long sessions. Small groups of Strandliners volunteers collected all the rubbish and took it off site. Due to the windy weather, it was impossible to conduct a survey on site. During another long session we emptied the bags and sorted the rubbish according to its use, type of material and lastly by brand. Finally we bagged everything for RDC and Biffa to collect. 

What did we find?

An amazing 3,324 identified and recorded items (3,223 of which were plastic). But there were many more small pieces – unidentifiable and unrecorded due to time constraints.

So what did the brand audit reveal?

196 plastic drink bottles
60 plastic milk bottles
(plus 32 glass drinks bottles & 47 metal drinks cans)
A total of 335 drinks containers
 
219 wet wipes
173 plastic bags
73 smoking related items
320 personal care items
521 household products
1056 food packaging items
103 metal/glass food packaging items
611 fishing gear items
604 polystyrene pieces

Breakdown of rubbish by product type

So who were the biggest polluters?

Bearing in mind that a only one-sixth of the items were identifiable by brand, and that there were almost 200 different brands found, our top ten polluters were:

What can we all do?

If anyone wants to take part in events like this, Break Free From Plastic is an international organisation you can participate in as an individual or as a group. Join Strandliners to take part, learn how to undertake surveys, clean up and begin to learn where it all comes from.

On a personal level – consume less (reduce/refuse), re-use, repair and as a last resort, recycle. If we produce waste, ensure it is appropriately disposed of and remember that plastic recycling may be helpful but is still a very inefficient process.

Thank you to all the stakeholders for their support to make this a successful operation.

All photographs copyright Andy Dinsdale and Strandliners unless otherwise stated.



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