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Tideway board members gather more than 1,600 wet wipes from River Thames foreshore

Tideway’s Board of Directors donned wellies and gloves on the banks of the River Thames to collect wet wipes embedded in the mud as part of Volunteers Week and World Environment Day.

The Tideway team, including Chairman Sir Neville Simms and CEO Andy Mitchell, spent a morning on the riverbank in Fulham yesterday (5 June), collecting and recording wet-wipes from an 11-square-metre patch of land.

Over the course of around 90 minutes, the team found more than 1,600 wet wipes.

Speaking at the event yesterday, Sir Neville said: “The amount of wipes we’re finding is just amazing and, of course, it isn’t just little squares… We’re finding huge rags that weigh pounds each buried just below the surface.

“All sorts of sanitary products are quite clearly being put down and it’s much, much worse than I could possibly have imagined.”

Wet-wipes are often mis-labelled as ‘flushable’ when in fact they contain plastic and take many years to breakdown.

When it rains in London, the sewer system overflows into the Thames – meaning flushed wet-wipes end up in the river and wash up on its banks.

These wet-wipes become buried in the mud and are changing the shape of the Thames’s banks.

Tideway supports Thames River Watch, a programme organised by charity Thames 21, which recruits and trains volunteers from across London to collect and count plastic litter on the Thames foreshore and uses the data to campaign for change. Tideway volunteers regularly help out at Thames River Watch litter picks on the foreshore.

The charity is currently focusing on surveying this ‘sinking litter’ site at Fulham as the mounds of wet wipes have visibly grown, a similar situation to a nearby foreshore on the south side of the river at Barnes, where 23,000 wet wipes were found in one stretch of foreshore in March.  

Sir Neville added: “I want to say thank you to all our staff who have done so much good work reconnecting London with the River Thames.”