Heatwave blamed as record number of plastic water bottles found in Thames

Thousands of plastic bottles have been fished out of the Thames after the summer heatwave caused huge numbers of single-use water containers to be thrown away.

Volunteers collected nearly 3,300 bottles in just two hours last week from 18 sites along the river, bringing the total recovered this year to more than 36,500 — the highest annual number ever collected from the Thames.

For the first time during these collections, more water bottles were found than fizzy drinks containers, which campaigners said highlighted the need for drinking fountains in the capital.

The Big Bottle Count organised by the charity Thames21 and Zoological Society of London took place from Thamesmead in the east to Kew Bridge in the west. Although the total number of plastic containers recovered was fewer than the 4,100 at last year’s event, water bottles accounted for half of all this year’s litter.

The most rubbish-strewn spots were Thamesmead, where 1,032 bottles were found, and Queen Caroline Draw Dock in Hammersmith, from where 544 containers were picked up.

Yellow and orange pay-as-you-go smart bikes were also found dumped among the foreshore debris.

Event co-ordinator Alice Hall said: “Londoners’ consumption of bottled water increased during the hot weather, which highlights the need for more fountains so people can get this basic resource for free, especially with more hot summers likely. We need more refill points and fountains.

“Water bottles are routinely one of the most common plastic types found in the river, but over the summer the proportion of water bottles exceeded fizzy drink bottles for the first time.”

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