An eco-warrior found dead birds – when clearing this ‘plastic dam’ blocking a river.
Sean Dudden, 49, is on a mission to clear all the plastic from the river that flows through his town – which is just half a mile of water.
But Sean was shocked when he spent five hours last Wednesday (Sept 4) clearing just 300 metres of the river – and filled eight black bin liners and six buckets.
Among the litter that Sean pulled from the River Somer, in Midsomer Norton, Somerset, was 59 plastic bottles, 45 polystyrene food containers, a TV stand, a dead duck, and two other dead birds.
Sean, from Bath, Somerset, also fished out four rubber ducks, seven flower pots, and a bicycle frame.
Sean said it is hard to know how the three birds died, but that they could have choked on plastic or drank from the dirty water.
Sean said: “The evidence is clear that the world is in crisis from plastic.
“There has already been media attention on this subject, but my aim is to blow open the staggering reality of the extreme plastic pollution that the world is experiencing.
“I think a lot of people just don’t really care. The vegatation has grown over it so you can’t really see it.
“Unless the message is reinforced many will simply forget and return to their normal routines rather than seeking more ways to make positive changes,” he added.
Sean described the mound of litter as a “plastic dam”, and says it could have been building up over the last 25-30 years.
The full list of rubbish Sean pulled from the River Somer comprised of two footballs, 59 plastic bottles, 32 cans, 45 polystyrene food containers, as well as a bike frame.
He also found four rubber ducks, seven flower pots, six cigarette lighters, a TV stand, two babies’ dummies, and two needles – and finally, the three dead birds.
He said: “Some of it was in inadequate recycling bins, some of it thrown in there, some of it has been moved by the wind and the water.
“The council have said there is no money to clean it. This really does have to be done.
“I’m not getting paid for it at all. I’d be happy if people paid me by the week, what better cause could you think of?”
He added that the plastic litter has caused serious damage to the river and the wildlife.
He said after measuring it, he found the pH level in the water to be pH3, which is the same as stomach acid. The water should be pH7.
Dozens of the plastic bottles had begun to erode and Sean says it’s these micro plastics that cause the real damage.
He said: “Potentially some of this will take 500 years to biodegrade.
“This is potentially more harmful than a landfill site. What doesn’t help is when you get a bottle than has been crushed by a car in the road and then goes into the stream.
“The car has done a lot of the work in decomposing it and that goes straight into the river.
“As soon as it is in the water you’ve lost the battle. This plastic has killed 300 metres of the river.”
But now that he has cleaned that stretch of river, Sean said: “What’s going to happen is the life will come back to this river.
“The river now looks lovely. The fish should be back very soon and this is really going to change the river for the better.”
Sean said he is prepared the clean the river all the way to Radstock, about five miles away, where it flows into the River Avon, if he must.
He is cleaning the river for free at the moment, but has set up a crowdfunding page in the hope that people will start to donate make his time cleaning more worthwhile.
He said: “I can’t afford to clean the river for free, but have been doing so anyway.
“If I can raise £500 that would give me a week to clear up to a mile of river from plastic waste, maybe more.
“The point is that there is no money for cleaning the plastic waste from our environment so I guess the only way forward to get the job done is via crowfunding.”
Liberal Democrat Councillor Dave Wood, cabinet member for Neighbourhood Services at Bath and North East Somerset Council, has thanked Sean for his voluntary work.
The Councillor said: “Litter causes damage to our environment, particularly plastic, which can be blown or washed far away and pollutes not just our local environment but also our countryside.
“Litter costs councils thousands of pounds to clean up and we can all help tackle litter by taking it home with us to recycle or placing it in a bin.
“We would like to thank Mr Dudden for the great voluntary work he is doing to help keep the environment and his community clean.
“I have met with Mr Dudden and have agreed to supply him with litter picking equipment and a bin for him to store the waste, which we will collect and dispose.
“We have also directed Mr Dudden to the Keynsham Wombles, a voluntary group that assist Bath and North East Somerset Council to manage and co-ordinate volunteers who want to help with keeping their communities clean.”