Communities unite to clean up the River Lea

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Members of Plastic Free Hackney cleaning up the River Lea
The clean up team were surprised to fish out an iPad (Credits: Daisy Hutchinson)

An inflatable mattress, an iPad and three bikes were just some of the litter found by 80 volunteers in and around the River Lea on a clean up between Hackney Marshes and Springfield Park.

“I think litter picks are really important for highlighting the mess we’re in,” said Bettina Maidment, community leader for Plastic Free Hackney, which organised the clean. “No one likes to look at litter, but they generally don’t do anything about it. Confronting the problem and then realising the extent of it really makes you aware of just how we are treating the natural world.”

Ms Maidment wants to run similar events to this one every month after a “really positive” local response.  “It works when everyone gets together and does their patch,” she added.

“We are really lucky that we have green places in Hackney and everyone does feel ownership of them. The council are trying their best in a hard time, but people are aware of the problem of plastic pollution now and feel they should step up and do their bit,” she said.

The event on 28 October was a collaboration with Plastic Pirates, Moo Canoes, Canal and River Trust, Hackney Council and Lea Boaters Collective, a group founded to prevent pollution in response to February’s River Lea oil spill.

“We’d like to help river and towpath users work together,” said Sophie Scott from Lea Boaters Collective. “Local residents, dog walkers, canoeists, rowers, liveaboard boaters, and fishers all share the space and have a right to enjoy a clean river.”

“We’d also like to see towpath bins back in place, improved waste collection facilities for boaters, and better communication and collaboration between Canal and River Trust, the Environmental Agency and the local council.”

By Lucie Heath and Tilly Armstrong