How you can reduce plastic waste whilst narrowboating
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Tue May 28, 2019 at 12:38pm

The recent campaign by Sky News to reduce plastic waste highlights how important it is to to look after the planet and cut down on the amount of plastic we use and throw away.

When John Ryley head of Sky News ate a bowl of mussels whilst in the company of his marine biologist son, who then asked him "Do you realise what you've just eaten, Dad?" he didn't bother waiting for a reply."North Sea mussels contain on average one particle of plastic per gram of tissue. They get it from the seawater which is polluted with plastics from cosmetics, synthetic clothing, packaging, you name it. So you've just eaten around three hundred pieces of plastic in the last 10 minutes. And it's still only lunchtime!"

His son then went on to give him a spur-of-the-moment lecture on what he sees as potentially the most dangerous environmental catastrophe confronting his generation. Namely, the whole-scale pollution of the world's oceans. Here are just a few of his 'Horrifying Ocean Facts': between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tons of plastic end up in the world's oceans every year and can be found everywhere from the Poles to the Equator, on coastlines, on the sea surface, and on the seafloor. Plastic makes up 95% of the rubbish in our oceans, mainly in the form of bags, food and drink containers, and fishing equipment; from past studies it is estimated that as many as 90% of the world's seabirds have plastic in their stomachs. This prompted a Sky News campaign to do something about reducing the amount of plastic waste ending up in the seas of our world.

After hearing about the Sky News campaign we decided to share our ideas for some ways you can help to reduce the amount of plastic aboard your narrowboat.

Use refillable containers

Instead of buying drinks in plastic containers when out and about take your own refillable flask, there are many attractive ones available to buy these days. The bonus is that you'll also save money on buying drinks when out. 

The company Ecover that make eco friendly washing up liquid have a few shops in the UK where you can get your empty bottle of washing up liquid refilled. Use the link above to search for a refill shop in your area.

Take reusable bags when shopping

Taking your own reusable shopping bags and shopping at local shops and markets will also save money and mean less plastic bags going to landfill.

Make use of canalside rubbish recycling compounds

Make sure that any plastic you do discard is recycled, by separating out your plastic waste and putting into the correct recycle bin at one of the canalside waste disposal facilities. To find your nearest canal side recycling facility click this link to the Canal and River Trusts website for more details.

Clean up the canal when you see rubbish

It might not be your waste, but if you do see rubbish floating on the water, or littering the canal towpath, do pick it up and dispose of it properly. It will save the litter ending up in the ocean!

Don't be a litterer!

Don't dump it! If you can't find an appropriate rubbish bin take your rubbish home with you. Litter has a hugely negative impact on peoples lives. Research shows that litter affects people’s feelings of wellbeing and safety. Littered streets feel abandoned, consequently their inhabitants do too. Litter ruins people’s enjoyment of the countryside and makes open spaces feel like waste grounds. Animals suffer too. New research on roadside litter by the RSPB and Keep Britain Tidy found more than 8% of bottles and almost 5% of the cans contained remains of some of our rarest native mammals, including shrews, bank voles and wood mice.


Replace plastic fenders with natural coir rope fenders which are more environmentally friendly and made from natural fibres which are extracted from the outside husk of a coconut to form coir. They are a biodegradable, eco-friendly Material.

Many of the fender ropes available today are made with polymers like polyethylene, resulting in a waterproof, rot-proof rope – but a fender rope that is very environmentally unfriendly, incapable of biodegrading and with a production process that is environmentally unsustainable. Coir rope, on the other hand, is not only ideal for use as fender rope, but is produced in a way which actually reduces carbon output, as the coconuts which form its raw material are farmed and use up atmospheric carbon to grow. At the end of the coir rope’s lifespan, when it is time to replace the boat fender, you can dispose of it normally, knowing that it will naturally decompose and re-enter the ecosystem.

Share your ideas with us!

How do you reduce plastic waste aboard your narrowboat? Comment below to tell us, we'd love to hear your ideas!