Latest Clearing Litter

Clearing Litter

Plastic in the rivers and seas along with the associated dangers to humans has received a great deal of publicity recently. There are also many other reasons for keeping plastic and other rubbish out of rivers.

The Foundation has been collecting litter from the Wye and Usk since 2004, removing over 100 tonnes of plastic, metal and other items from the riverbanks.

Where is it coming from?Litter in the upper Wye

Groups of volunteers and staff from WUF and Keep Wales Tidy were involved in several exercises on the upper reaches of both rivers in 2004 and 2005. Analysis of origins of the litter collected from these first efforts was revealing – that a high percentage of the litter (up to 76%) was from agriculture, usually in the form of silage wrap, feed bags/buckets and baler twine.

The results from subsequent clean ups are shown below.

Starting with the Lugg & Arrow

Further, single site clear-ups were carried out over the next four or five years. Then, in 2010, Tony Norman (one of WUF’s Trustees), took on the considerable challenge of organising the first large-scale litter clean-up exercise. His ambitious goal was to clear the whole Lugg and Arrow catchment in 10 weeks.

Starting in March 2011, Tony and 220 volunteers from conservation organisations, government bodies, NGOs, fishing clubs, canoe groups, local councils and others collected 671 sacks of litter and single items from the riverbanks.

They also removed larger objects such as tyres, feed buckets, chairs, beds, a saddle and even a children’s swimming pool and surf board. Powys County Council also removed 30 tons of rubbish from a Highways Agency depot on the banks of the Lugg in Presteigne, most of which would have eventually been washed Danger to aquatic lifedownstream. They also took measures to prevent the site being used as a tip in the future. In all, over 100 miles of river was cleared.

Moving to the Wye and Usk

Spurred on by this success, Tony then turned his attention to the upper Wye. Over 12 weeks in 2012, volunteers removed litter from the river’s source at Pumlumon (Plynlimon) downstream to Builth Wells and beyond, including the tributary streams.

In addition to the normal litter and even more worryingly, several drums containing agricultural and mechanical chemicals that damage the aquatic environment were also found.

Later that year, the Foundation’s volunteers and Keep Wales Tidy got together with a group of canoeists to clean up the river Usk between Sennybridge and Brynich Lock, below Brecon.

In subsequent years Tony and the volunteers completed the rest of the Wye, finishing at Beachley Point near Chepstow in 2015.

The results

This completed an 11 year project with some statistics that were both impressive and worrying…

Over 1,100 miles of river bank cleared….

By over 1,117 volunteers spending nearly 5,386 hours….Clearing litter from the banks of the river Lugg

Collecting 4,171 sacks of litter and other items….

61% of which were of agricultural origin in number, although nearer 90% in volume and weight.

Map of the area of river cleared since 2004.

The future

This is not the end of our efforts to keep the rivers as litter free as possible. We would be delighted to hear from anyone willing to help out in future projects. If you can spare a few hours, please contact the Foundation on 01874 711 714 or email us

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