Thousands of items pulled from the river in clean-up operation in Wigan

Fire extinguishers, a butternut squash and a pregnancy test kit were some of the more unusual items recovered by a team working to clean up the River Douglas in Wigan.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 4:55 am

They also pulled out thousands of plastic bottles and hundreds of balls as they removed piles of rubbish from the water.

The clean-up was organised by Stormwater Shepherds, after a request for help from Douglas Rivers Association due to the inaccessible location on Green Street.

They worked with partners including Wigan Council, Environment Agency, Canal and Rivers Trust, Ribble Rivers Trust, River Douglas Catchment Partnership and Groundwork.

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Some of the rubbish pulled from the water

Bithells Waste Management provided skips while RAM Safety Solutions ensured the work could be done safely.

The team spent a full day removing items from the water, with their final tally including 2,719 plastic bottles, 214 glass bottles, 588 pieces of polystyrene, 928 small balls, 113 large balls, 120 aerosol cans and 26 shoes.

Among the other items collected were nine toys, four tyres and wheels, four cigarette lighters, two cycling helmets, a golf driver, a baby doll and an inflatable rubber lion.

Two skips full of mixed waste was removed from the site, while a large pile of wood was left to create a habitat for use by hedgehogs, insects and other wildlife.

Jo Bradley, from Stormwater Shepherds

Jo Bradley, director of operations at Stormwater Shepherds, said: “We are going to keep an eye on it and see how long it takes for that much litter to build up again.

“We will be talking to businesses in the Wigan area to see if we can reduce the amount of litter going in the water.”

The different types of rubbish collected led to the organisation looking at where it came from and ways to tackle the problem in future.

Mrs Bradley said: “I don’t know where all the footballs and tennis balls came from.

“Most of the balls were dog-walking balls, so there must be somewhere people are playing fetch with their dogs and have lost 928 balls. There is also somewhere people are playing football.

“I would love to know where that is so someone could get a fence up.”

Among the balls was one bearing the name of Teonie Edwards and Mrs Bradley would like to track her down so it can be returned.

She also suggested a deposit return scheme be set up for recycling empty bottles.

Mrs Bradley said: “We would love to see a deposit return scheme introduced which is a machine where you can put an empty bottle in and you get 10p or 15p. It’s something the government was looking at but it has stalled.

“If these bottles were worth 10p each, the children of Wigan would have put the bottles in there.”

Mrs Bradley says it would have cost around £4,000 to pay a company to remove all the rubbish.

She urged people in Wigan to consider where they put their litter, so waterways remain clean for the wildlife that live there and for an improved environment.

Every day around eight million pieces of plastic make their way into the oceans.

Mrs Bradley said: “If the people of Wigan can think about where their rubbish is going, it would make a difference.”

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