Numerous opened safes, a rocking horse and office chairs were just some of the items found in the Grand Union and Oxford Canals it has emerged.
And now a campaign is underway to highlight the effect of dumped rubbish on the nation’s waterways as a result.
A national survey to record all the weird and wonderful items people throw into their local waterway has uncovered some bizarre objects in the south east area. Seven empty safes, 60 footballs and nitric oxide bottles were found - discarded rubbish is a major nuisance to the Canal & River Trust.
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Over the past five years the charity, which cares for 224 miles of waterways in the south east, has hauled out thousands of plastic bags, glass bottles and traffic cones.
It costs the charity about £1 million each year to clear the dumped rubbish, funds that could be spent on improving wildlife habitats and ensuring the waterways are navigable for boaters.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of volume of rubbish. It often can’t recover every item which means it lies on the bottom of the canal bed out of sight and mind to many passers-by, causing problems to boaters and wildlife.
This winter, as part of its major £45 million restoration and repairs programme, the charity conducted a four month survey to record the rubbish being removed from the canals and to reveal what lurks beneath the waterline.
The survey results found that a typical ‘tennis court sized’ lock contains the following:
1x shopping trolley
1x traffic cone
67x glass bottles
150x plastic bags
3x windlasses (sometimes known as ‘lock keys’)
Every year thousands of plastic bags and fizzy drink cans are thrown into the waterways but just one of those cans can take up to 200 years to biodegrade and a supermarket plastic bag up to 20 years.
The rubbish is not only an eyesore but has a real environmental effect on the waterways. Tyres and other rubbish contain pollutants which leak into the water and poison fish and other wildlife. Often rubbish acts as a choking hazard and wildlife can become trapped amongst the litter.
Richard Bennett, environment manager at the Canal & River Trust, said: “I’m constantly surprised at what people throw into the canal and the quantity of litter that we retrieve. Dealing with the problem is a big task and the money could be better spent enhancing the canals for people and wildlife to enjoy for years to come.”
As the charity comes to the end of its winter restoration and repairs work, it is calling for people to think twice about polluting their local canal or river with old plastic bags and litter.
Anyone interested in lending a hand can join the Canal & River Trust’s Towpath Taskforce. The volunteer taskforce helps to make a difference by carrying out weeding, litter clearance and general maintenance.
The volunteer taskforce helps to make a difference by carrying out weeding, litter clearance and general maintenance. Visit the website for more information www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/towpathtaskforce