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'It's scary': Motorbikes, BBQs and rugs among thousands of pieces of waste pulled from UK rivers

Consumer Editor Chris Choi uncovers the UK's underwater fly-tipping problem


We are being submerged in litter. ITV News has been to film the fight against underwater fly-tipping.

The problem is affecting some of our most treasured locations - canals, lakes and rivers.

Many of those struggling against this rising tide of dumping say it’s increasing as culprits realise the water disguises their crime and destroys vital evidence. We filmed examples on the Walsall Canal where hardworking volunteers with the Canal and River Trust have done a lot to improve the area as a highly treasured public facility.


"I cringe if I see kids jumping into rivers and lakes because we know what's underneath" - Warren Palmer and Anthony Hanstock, a father stepson diving duo who pick litter underwater in their free time

Yet they have faced rubbish dumping that threatens this location and wildlife in the area.

Burnt out cars, motorbikes, vans full of household waste and much more have been thrown into this important urban eco-system.

Burnt out cars are among the discarded items that have have been thrown into the Walsall canal. Credit: ITV News

The Canal and River Trust says half a million litter items are washed to sea from our waterways.

Almost half is plastic and 125,000 hours of volunteer time is now spent clearing up canals and rivers annually. As the dumping goes sub-aqua - so do the volunteers.

A window frame was among the litter ITV News saw during filming. Credit: ITV News

Our underwater cameras joined a father and step son diving duo who collect rubbish from rivers and lakes.

Warren Palmer and Anthony Hanstock learnt how to dive so they could see the beauty of the deep - but now spend a lot of their time searching for the least attractive things in our waterways.

The task is dangerous, it’s easy to become tangled in the submerged rubbish.

The pair take many safety precautions and fear for members of the public who use lakes and rivers for a summer swim.

The diving duo say it's 'scary' what they have found in UK rivers and lakes. Credit: ITV News


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They are angry about the impact they see on wildlife and water quality - often finding items such as batteries that leach toxins. The Keep Britain Tidy campaign group told us dumping into waterways is a growing concern and they want a government waste strategy to address the issue.

The group believes a significant portion of this type of dumping is by illegal contractors who charge members of the public for rubbish disposal - but then throw it into canals, rivers and elsewhere.

There are numerous examples of rubbish-dumping on the Walsall Canal. Credit: ITV News

The Canal and River Trust is now spending £1 million a year cleaning up after these waste criminals.

Many of the towpaths and inland waterways have been vastly improved over the years and became a vital public resource during lockdowns when people needed outdoor recreation.

It is infuriating that their scarce funds have to be used to clean-up after unscrupulous fly-tippers.