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In the summer of 2021, with Covid still very much on our minds, the ​environmental group of District 1090, covering the Thames Valley, decided ​on a project to bring the district together. And so, the Thames Valley Clean ​Up was born.

The project was tied to the goals of the Rotary initiative End Plastic Soup, which ​District 1090 had forged close links with through the Dutch founder, Gert-Jan van ​Dommelen. These goals were:

  • To reduce the amount of plastic (and other debris) that gets carried into our ​seas and oceans.
  • To raise awareness of the issues of plastic micro plastic waste finding its way ​into the water table, rivers & oceans, our food chain.
  • To work with the local community and partner with other interested ​environmental groups including schools, many of whom have active ​environmental programmes.
  • To respect the river users and the wildlife.
  • To raise awareness of Rotary as a responsible environmental activist working ​with and for the community.
  • To recruit new members, volunteers and friends.

With this in mind, we needed to know whether a river clean up was practical?  In ​October 2021, with the help of Thames River Rescue, Henley Sea Cadets, Henley ​Mermaids and a few friends, a successful pilot was held, which received good ​media coverage, and Henley Rotary Club acquired some new members.

a group of volunteers standing with bags of rubbish they have collected from a river

A ​succesful pilot for the Thames Valley Clean Up was held in 2021

We worked with the local authorities, the Environment Agency and landowners. ​The local council was very helpful, offering help and advice on disposing the ​collected debris.

It was decided to launch the river clean up in May 2023 when there would be ​minimum disruption to wildlife, the boating season on the River Thames had yet ​to start in earnest, and river levels were at a safe rate.

A great deal of preparatory work was put in with water-based risk assessments, ​along with providing help and advice for Rotary clubs looking to take part, ​supplying river maps and other useful information to promote the event.

 We were ready to launch with flyers, newsletters, Zoom meetings and personal ​contacts. District 1090 were incredibly supportive. Throughout the run-up, we ​were talking to the Environment Agency and received lots of support from lock ​keepers along the River Thames.

The 2023 river clean-up was spread out over 10 days, including two weekends. By ​mutual agreement some clubs collected outside the time frame with other clubs ​organising school groups or working with local community groups. The first ​clean-up was a great success with clubs asking ‘when next’?  

The Environment Agency suggested that Rotary should contact Thames21, an ​organisation which mobilises thousands of volunteers each year to clean and ​green London’s 400-mile network of waterways.

They were holding their second Plasticblitz in September 2022. In principle, their ​concept was the same - to collect litter and to raise awareness by encouraging ​local groups to take part.

There were several differences, though. The PlasticBlitz was focused on the River ​Thames from Windsor to the estuary, with groups encouraged to register for this ​European Union-funded project. 


find out more about thames valley

rotary’s partnership with the Environment Agency and Thames 21

Rotary 1090 agreed to join with Thames21, and a separate entry process was set ​up for Rotary clubs, who had the option of the full scientific study or just a basic ​bag count. The Plasticblitz was now extended from Hungerford in Berkshire to ​the Thames estuary, with each group showing the proposed collection area on ​Google maps.

Each participating group was identified with a short descriptive paragraph on the ​Thames21 website which was available to Rotarians, environment groups and ​the public.

The registration system worked well, and we were delighted to find a club from ​South London and one from Essex had joined the Blitz via our entry registration.

In 2023, we formalised the partnership with the Environment Agency, Thames21 ​and Rotary in the Thames Valley. By mutual agreement, the event was moved to ​May which would run over three weekends, one of which coincided with National ​Rivers Week.

It was decided to expand the Plasticblitz and East Anglia was included. One of the ​spin-offs was that the students from the media department of Reading College ​asked if they could make a film about the Plastic Blitz which is now available on ​the website.

We are now looking forward to this year’s Plasticblitz which takes place from May ​25th to June 9th. If your District has not adopted the Plasticblitz your Club can ​join via our website where you can find out everything you need to know and ​register. For more details, email:

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