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  • Writer's pictureLitter Free Norbury

How Litter Harms Norbury’s Waterways and Wildlife

Hello, Norbury community!

We're really fortunate to call South London our home, as it's an incredibly lively and diverse place with stunning natural surroundings, including lovely waterways. However, just like other parts of this amazing area, these natural treasures are facing an ongoing issue: Litter.

You may not realize it, but every single piece of litter that finds its way onto our streets has the potential to make its way into our beautiful rivers and lakes. When it rains, litter is washed into storm drains and carried into our waterways, where it accumulates and causes serious harm.

Today, we want to share with you some of the ways that litter affects our rivers and lakes and why we need to take action to protect them.

Litter harms aquatic life

One of the most obvious impacts of litter is the danger it poses to aquatic animals. Plastic debris, such as bottles, bags, wrappers, and straws, can be mistaken for food by fish, turtles, birds, and mammals, leading to ingestion and potential harm. Some animals can also get entangled in discarded fishing lines, nets, rings, and other items, causing injury or even death.

Litter also disrupts the natural habitats of aquatic organisms, affecting their breeding and feeding patterns. For example, some fish need clean gravel beds to spawn, but these can be covered by sediment and debris. Some plants need sunlight to grow, but these can be shaded by floating litter. Some animals need oxygen to breathe, but these can be suffocated by decomposing litter.

Litter degrades water quality

Another impact of litter is the deterioration of water quality in our rivers and lakes. Chemicals from littered items, such as plastic fragments or cigarette butts, can leach into the water, contaminating it and harming the plants and animals that rely on it. This contamination not only affects aquatic life but can also have broader implications for human health if the water is used for drinking or recreational purposes.

Litter also affects the aesthetic quality of our waterways, spoiling their beauty and reducing their appeal for visitors and residents alike. Who wants to see a river or a lake full of rubbish? Who wants to swim or boat in polluted water? Who wants to live near a dirty and smelly waterway?

Litter comes from many sources

One of the most common sources of litter is wet wipes. Wet wipes are widely used for personal hygiene, baby care, cleaning, and makeup removal. However, many people do not realize that most wet wipes contain plastic and do not dissolve in water. When flushed down the toilet, they cause 93% of sewer blockages, costing around £100m a year to clear up. They also end up in our rivers and lakes, where they form "islands" that pollute the water and harm wildlife.

There are alternatives to wet wipes that are better for the environment. For example, we can use reusable cloths or towels that can be washed and reused. We can also look for wet wipes that are plastic-free and biodegradable, such as those made from bamboo or other plant fibres. We should always check the label before buying or using wet wipes and never flush them down the toilet.

What can we do to stop litter?

The good news is that we can all do something to prevent litter from entering our waterways in the first place. Here are some simple steps that we can take to make a difference:

  • Dispose of our waste properly. Whether we are at home or out and about, we should always use bins or take our litter home with us. We should also avoid littering from vehicles or boats, as this can easily end up in waterways.

  • Reduce our use of single-use products. Many items that we use once and throw away, such as plastic bags, bottles, cups, straws, and cutlery, are major sources of litter. We can reduce our impact by choosing reusable alternatives, such as cloth bags, metal bottles, ceramic mugs, bamboo straws, and wooden spoons.

  • Encourage others to do the same. We can spread the word about the problem of litter and the solutions that we can adopt. We can educate our friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and especially our children about the importance of respecting our waterways and wildlife. We can also report any incidents of littering or fly-tipping to the authorities.

  • Join or organize clean-up events. We can also take action by removing existing litter from our streets and waterways. We can join or organize clean-up events with other members of our community, such as schools, clubs, businesses, or charities. We can also volunteer with organizations such as the Canal & River Trust or Waterways Holidays that work to maintain and restore our waterways.

Norbury is our home, and it’s up to us to keep it clean and preserve the health of our waterways. By tackling the problem of litter, one piece at a time, we can make a positive impact on our environment and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

Together, let’s keep Norbury litter-free on land and in water!


- The Litter Free Norbury Team

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