Luke Douglas-Home of Clear Public Space Space
The Thames is the cleanest it has been since the Industrial Revolution
Last week we were at the Tidal Thames Environment Conference.to learn more about the wonderful Thames, the Port of London Authority’s invaluable work with it, and how A Future without Rubbish™ can work really well in Westminster (London) when it starts in 2017. We’ll be speaking in Westminster in April.
We had a wonderful introduction by Robin Mortimer (Chief Executive of the Port of London Authority) and then inspirational reports and talks from PLA’s Katherine Riggs, Jo Heisse and Alex Mortley, with the Environment Manager, Tanya Ferry, and the Thames Landscape Strategy’s Jason Debney.
And views from the floor included great applauds for the improvements on so much of the Thames. Also, pushed particularly hard by Roger Squires from the Inland Water Authority, was ‘the polluter must pay’ principle. Robin did point out that it is very difficult applying this to the worst offender - plastic water bottles. Plastic now accounts for 95% of the rubbish in our oceans Debbie Leach from ‘Thames21’ said that “We mustn’t give up trying to stop people throwing rubbish into the river”. And she agreed with Robin, who had said that volunteer clean ups (which they had both been on) continued to be ‘just grim’, with nearly half of all plastic bottles found being from single-use mineral water bottles.
And the irony of drinking water being bought, to then pollute fresh water with refuse (the Thames is getting that way!) was referred to by Robin. And even Captain Peter Steen (Director of Marine Operations in the PLA) said “I hold my hands up and confess – it was normal as a young man to wait until we got out to sea before chucking our rubbish overboard…… How things change… that kind of behaviour is not normal at all nowadays ….but why is it normal for people to drink water and not bin their bottles, however small?! It is the same thing, but what I used to do was 30 years ago! Debbie (Thames 21) and I are constantly miffed as to how we stop people littering.”
We spoke with Peter and Tanya afterwards and agreed that ‘changing the normal’ had to start with education – so it becomes just not normal to chuck, and then there is no ‘paying’, by anyone. We at CPSL believe that refuse is really a resource, and in time people will be paying you for your rubbish: i.e. no-one having to pay for you littering (i.e. the polluter pays / council tax)…. But until that (wonderful) day, all we must do to bring that future even closer is educate children and ourselves in individual waste management – habitually to ‘RRSC’ (re-use, recycle or separate and clean).
And both audience and staff members of the Port of London Authority were very complimentary about Sky News’ programme “A Plastic Tide”, and John Ryley’s (#OceanRescue) note that “It will be a major challenge to put the legacy of pollution we are passing on into reverse, but we owe it to our children and future generations to acknowledge the problem and change our behaviour”. Behavioural change….major challenge…..owe future generations….we are all singing the same song. Yes! Wir schaffen das!
Behavioural change and then law change; that is our mission – in that order. Will you join with us all?!