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Paddlers come to Wigan canal's eco rescue

Paddle boarders cleaning up the canal near Wigan Pier
Paddle boarders cleaning up the canal near Wigan Pier

A group of stand-up paddle boarders descended on Wigan to clean up the canal.

And between the eight of them they collected no fewer than 20 bags of rubbish in a one-mile stretch comprising 438 plastic bottles, 40 cans, 35 polystyrene chip trays and half a wheelbarrow.

Paddlers removed rubbish from the waterway

Paddlers removed rubbish from the waterway

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The group, SUP North, regularly runs clean-ups in their local paddling areas in Southport, engaging their members positively in the issue of plastic pollution in the waterways.

With the increasing amount of media coverage currently focusing on plastic pollution, more and more people are looking at ways they can be a part of the solution.

This clean-up precedes the Surfers Against Sewage and British Canoeing Autumn Beach and River Clean series, which aims for 400 to 500 clean-ups taking place between October 20 and 28.

The clean-up was instigated by Cal Major, an ocean advocate, explorer and veterinary surgeon who recently set a new world record by becoming the first person to stand-up paddleboard the entire length of the UK, from Land’s End in Cornwall to John O’Groats in Scotland; 1,000 miles over 59 days.

She paddled 750 miles of open ocean and 250 miles of inland waterways - canals and rivers.

During her trip, Cal witnessed heavy pollution in the inland waterways, particularly around built-up areas. One of the more noticeably affected areas was Greater Manchester and the connection between the plastic we are using and that finding its way into the environment is very visible.

In one hour of paddling, Cal counted 691 plastic bottles floating in the canal in Wigan. With 38.5 million plastic bottles used in the UK every single day, and less than half of them recycled, she said it was no wonder they were the most common item she encountered on her expedition.

“I wasn’t able to pick them up at the time, but was determined to come back and help clean up the canal, which provides enjoyment to so many people, and life to so many creatures.

"Growing up in Warrington, the North West is very close to my heart, and I would walk or run along the Bridgewater canal tow path most days, finding a little bit of peace amongst the business of life.

“Despite the sheer amount of rubbish, there was a great community feel to the event, with a real satisfaction at being able to do something positive for an environment that brings us so much pleasure, and to prevent that plastic from ending up out to sea.

"Several people living close by also offered help disposing of the rubbish and encouragement and thanks for helping to look after the environment that means something to them too.”