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Baywatch to River Watch: Zac Efron highlights scale of plastic pollution in the Thames

American actor Zac Efron joins Tideway’s environmental partner Thames21 to highlight the huge issue of London’s plastic waste problem in a new documentary.

Down to Earth is released on Netflix from Friday 10 July with all episodes available. The travel show sees Efron journey around the world examining key sustainability issues like water, food and energy.

In England, he joins forces with environment charity Thames21 and a local volunteer River Action Group, donning a high visibility vest, getting stuck-in with a plastic clean-up and commenting on the scale of the problem.

Efron visits a key plastic waste hotspot at the scenic Concrete Barges, Rainham, an area of Essex saltmarsh where tonnes of lightweight plastic waste from the capital accumulates, forming huge plastic carpets. 'It’s kind of impossible to stop,' says the actor as he surveys the thousands of single-use bottles, cotton buds and food containers that wash up on the strandline at high tide, and which local Thames21 volunteers do their best to monitor the plastic and remove it.

More than 200 tonnes of waste are removed from the Thames annually by Thames21 and the Port of London Authority, but there is no statutory monitoring of plastic impact on the river. Tideway has funded Thames21’s citizen science programme, Thames River Watch, to fill this gap, and this crucial plastic data forms the basis of a new report. The devastating impact plastic has on key nature sites to the east of London is one of the key findings emerging from Thames21’s Thames Plastic Pollution.

‘These areas are key green spaces for Londoners and important nursery grounds for fish and birds,’ said Chris Coode, Thames21 deputy CEO. ‘There is now so much plastic in these saltmarsh habitats that you can hear the plastic crunch underfoot as you walk along.’