48 amazing volunteers spent 2 hours scouring the banks of the Taff in Hailey Park on Saturday morning, 26 January, removing litter and other rubbish that had been washed down the river — a lot of it quite high up the banks, following Storm Callum.
Although it did rain a bit during the morning, thankfully we weren’t subjected to two solid hours of downpour like last year. (That said, the leak in my waders meant that the weather was largely irrelevant.)
One thing that was very apparent during Saturday’s event was the amount of “non-woven fabric” — aka wet wipes — that was caught up in branches and other obstructions along the banks of the river.And those were just the ones that didn’t end up as part of monstrous sewer-blocking “fatbergs“, like the 800 tonne one recently removed from a sewer in Cardiff’s Mermaid Quay, at a cost of £2 million.
The problem is, it’s incredibly hard to remove non-woven fabric, as it just tears into bits. But if left, over time the material will break down into micro-plastic particles that will end up in the food chain, and which may well ultimately be eaten by us.
However, there is some good news on the horizon, with the introduction of the “Fine to Flush” industry standard. Wet-wipes that meet the standard won’t contain any plastics and will break down so that they don’t cause fatbergs or, we hope, get caught up on the riverbank. This is a massive improvement on the current situation, in which manufacturers label some of their products as “flushable”, even though none of them have passed the water industry’s disintegration tests.