More rubbish

Editor Peter Fellows considers the plastics problem.

I think most people would welcome CRT’s ‘Plastics Challenge’, launched in June. Visitors to the waterways are being asked to pick up one piece of litter to prevent the half-million plus pieces of plastic entering the sea from UK canals each year.

It clearly chimes well with the Trust’s wellbeing strategy and get­ting more people involved with the waterways as litter-picking volunteers. It also resonates with increasing public concerns over single-use plastics. However, one of the findings in the report didn’t ring true to me: “.. the amount of plastics and litter along a stretch of waterway does not relate to the surrounding population, levels of deprivation in the area or how much the towpath is used.” When boating, it is common to pass through miles of countryside and small towns and villages, see­ing hardly any rubbish in the water or along the banks. Then, within a couple of miles of an urban centre, it’s everywhere. So the report’s ten tips for visitors to reduce litter along towpaths are welcome. This new initiative is not really aimed at boat­ers, who, with rare exceptions, take care to properly dispose of rubbish (although I have seen black plastic bags of rubbish thrown onto offside land that could only have come from boats). But it’s in boaters’ interests to support the initiative, not only to make the waterway environment more pleasant and safer for wildlife, but also to reduce prop fouling and the need to delve down the weed­hatch. But here’s the rub: despite CRT claiming that it aims to increase the number of recycling points, members’ experiences, reported for many months now, and in Jim Batty’s letter in this issue, is that waste dis­posal sites are being closed and there are parts of the system that are now ‘facility deserts’. We know that waste costs CRT enormous amounts of money and there can be serious problems with fly-tipping and peo­ple abusing disposal facilities, but it boils down to spending priorities. To prevent the new plastics chal­lenge being seen as a bit of PR spin, there needs to be significant invest­ment in waterside disposal facilities to prevent rubbish getting into the waterways in the first place.

My thanks to John and Marion Pearse, who have proofread NABO News for the last four years, but have now hung up their windlasses. If you would like to help out twice a year to proofread the text over a weekend, please let me know.

There’s been a lot going on since the May issue: CRT’s latest boat owners’ survey reflects the discon­tent that many members have been reporting for months; Mike Rodd reports that the Government has de­cided to discontinue plans for CRT to take over EA waterways—a decision welcomed by NABO; there’s a new Waterways Ombudsman (actually an Ombudswoman); more problems with widebeam boats on narrow canals, highlighted by Helen Hutt; and Mark Tizard reviews NABO’s legal advice about boaters’ liability if a cyclist hits a mooring pin. David Fletcher has been busy, with articles on GDPR, emails from NABO, NAG operations and CO alarms. I’ve also included a review of member, Jim Batty’s book, a first for NABO News. Plus a bumper crop of letters in this issue. Enjoy the summer.