Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram joins litter pick to endorse Plastic Free Mersey project

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram has joined a group of volunteers in a litter clean-up operation around the River Alt today to support an environmental initiative called ‘Plastic Free Mersey’.

The Plastic Free Mersey project is led by environmental charities Mersey Rivers Trust and Thames21. It builds on Thames21’s award-winning litter survey work, which has identified the most common plastic litter items on the Tidal Thames.

The Plastic Free Mersey project was publicly launched on 22 July and initially runs for two years.

This citizen-science initiative is training and supporting volunteers to collect valuable data about the plastic items they find along the River Mersey and its 23 tributaries that flow from the Pennines to Liverpool Bay. The litter found will be safely removed and correctly disposed of.

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:

“The River Mersey has been central to our region’s fortunes throughout our history. We’ve come a long way towards cleaning it up since Lord Heseltine described the Mersey as an ‘affront to the standards a civilised society should demand of its environment.’

“The Plastic Free Mersey campaign has my full support – and I am hoping to make further announcements on my ambitions to clean up the Mersey in the near future.

“We are very proud to join all the volunteers, Thames21, Mersey Rivers Trust, and Plastic Free Mersey project partners in supporting this brilliant campaign today. It’s great that local residents get to take part in helping to do their bit for the environment and we hope that it will encourage them to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic.”

Debbie Leach, CEO of Thames21, said:

“We are delighted that the Metro Mayor has endorsed our Plastic Free Mersey project and shares our belief that plastic litter has no place in our rivers or the natural environment.

So much plastic is being littered – not only is it trashing our rivers, creating an eyesore and harming wildlife, it is also a waste of a valuable resource that could be recycled into useful products.”

John Sanders, Director at Mersey Rivers Trust, said:

“We are very pleased that the Metro Mayor is supporting our mission to bring awareness to the consequences that littering can have on the River Mersey waterways.

We welcome his endorsement of our project aims to identify how plastic litter gets into our rivers and the actions required to achieve a plastic free Mersey.”

Plastic pollution damages ecosystems, discourages people from visiting their rivers and seas, and is a source of increasing concern for riverside communities. The Plastic Free Mersey project focuses on identifying and quantifying plastic litter and other litter on riverbanks and estuaries to spur changes in people’s behaviour, such as reduced littering and increased recycling, and to provide essential information to the plastics and waste management industries to support circular economy solutions.

By collecting information on plastic and other litter along with information on people’s waste disposal (including littering) habits, the project will tackle how society uses and disposes of plastic. Through industry collaboration, the initiative will help shape behaviour change to keep litter out of waterways. It will also explore ways to increase the effectiveness of plastics recycling and management.

Thames21 and Mersey Rivers Trust is working in collaboration with LyondellBasell, one of the world’s largest producers of plastics and chemicals, INOVYN, Europe’s leading producer of vinyls and SUEZ, a global expert in the water and waste sectors.

These three business partners have company sites in the River Mersey catchment. The project also has the support of the British Plastics Federation, PlasticsEurope, RECOUP, and the endorsement of the Liverpool City Region, Chester West and Chester Council, Warrington Borough Council, and Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority (MRWA). Both Suez and MRWA have supplied litter pickers for the Plastic Free Mersey volunteers to use.

The project aims to create and test an effective model of co-operation between NGOs, researchers and the plastics industry to tackle plastic pollution in waterways.

This model can then be applied to other river catchments in the UK and abroad. The project team is engaging with academic experts and other businesses in the plastics sector to gather advice and contributions to ultimately generate solutions (based on robust evidence and methods) to the excessive levels of plastic and other litter in and around our rivers.

Such solutions comprise behavioural and management changes across at the individual, community, business, and government levels.

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