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Saturday, June 09, 2018

How we are choking our environment

The campaign to cut back on the amount of plastic waste in our environment must have received a stimulus in Wales today with this piece about the way that rivers in Cardiff are being polluted by the stuff.

As the BBC reports, volunteers are complaining that they are dealing with a seemingly never-ending clean-up of litter, with piles of plastic bottles and takeaway cartons being collected every month by community groups in the city. They add that one volunteer described seeing a swan's nest made of plastic bottles, while another said at one point the River Taff was a "sea of plastic:

Alex Finley, one of a group from South Wales Paddle Boarders who took to the River Taff last week, said they were coming across a "shocking" amount of plastic in the water.

The volunteers - the youngest aged eight - picked up about 20 bags-worth of litter from the river in an-hour-and-a-half after being inspired by the Volvo Ocean Race.

"When you paddle up the Taff it's just idyllic, but when you are picking up so much plastic you start to wonder what sort of water you are in," he said.

Plastic bottles, beer cans and broken-up takeaway boxes made up the majority of their loot - but the group also found bike tyres and a number of plastic ducks.

"It was just phenomenal - we couldn't believe it," he said.

"I came round this one corner and it was just a sea of plastic. For about 100m you could barely see the water. It was just grim."

The BBC say that Cardiff Harbour Authority collects an average of 430 tonnes of rubbish and natural debris from this area each year, a lot of it due to human activity, including sewage, industrial pollution, and incorrectly plumbed toilets and showers. Naturally, there are concerns about the impact on wildlife.

Regular clean-ups and better funded activity by local councils will of course make a difference but there needs to be a fundamental change in the way that we approach waste if this is to be solved in the long term.

In particular we need to have legislation to reduce packaging, to insist that what packaging is there is biodegradable and of course we need better enforcement and more stringent punishments for fly-tipping and other illegal waste disposal.

This is a job for government, and now that it has been seen as a problem on their own doorstep, one for Welsh Minister to take on directly.
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