The Great River Rescue

Jewels, cash, gold, a pirate’s wooden leg – that’s what some of us thought we’d discover along the foreshores of the Thames during our Great River Rescue clean-up event.

Well, ok, maybe that was just me, but most who joined us for the day dreamed-up a scenario in their heads of uncovering some kind of cheeky little treasure that would make a great ‘tell-at-the-pub’ story.

We knew we’d find crisp packets, plastic bottles, old newspapers, and odd boots – plus other recognisable household items - but the curious creatures among us couldn’t help but think that in all that silt, sand and water there might be ‘something’ worth digging up and talking about.

We weren’t disappointed.

However, the ‘something’ turned out to be a shocker – and not of the good kind, either. Instead of treasure, we found ...................well, think the opposite of treasure and you’ll find the collective word for piles and piles of sodden, heavy, wet wipes clearly used and discarded without a thought. Over time they had tumbled through the system, fought in the waters and become tethered together by the iron-like fibres that weave these cloths into brilliantly strong bottom-cleaners for babies.

When you ‘innocently’ flush one teeny, tiny wet wipe thinking it will go ‘poof’ once the lid closes, you are unaware that through the dark and gloomy underworld of sewerageland these ickle wipes find one another and form an impossible chain that slinks through the pipes and expand. They can not be processed as toilet tissue can and so are expelled through the overflow pipe and reappear, lurking like tentacled monsters on the shores. Utterly disgusting.

And if that wasn’t enough of an assault on our beautiful waterways we also found sanitary towels that had being carelessly flushed away and flung out – not by residents of nearby million pound properties, surely, but by people who were quite clearly dragged up through the woods or who had just crash-landed here from another planet.

Who are these people who think these items are ‘flushable’. Bravo London for NOT throwing onto the streets and into the rivers the aforementioned crisp packets, plastic bottles, newspapers and old boots but shame on you for flushing quite obviously non-flushable items through our systems.

What an eye-opening lesson that was for our group of 50 eventprofs who had gathered one windy Friday morning for a networking session of a difference.

Under the BNC Gives Back initiative they came dressed for river exploration and willing to join a formidable team of ‘River Rescuers’ alongside environmental experts from Thames21.

On went the steel toe-capped wellies and reinforced gloves and with black bags, spades and litter-pickers in hand they and The BNC staff team all set about clearing a stretch of the mighty River Thames just by Battersea Bridge.

Working in groups or getting stuck into an area on their own, our fearless bunch – which included suppliers from Richmond Hill Hotel, Jardin Blanc, Hotel Desk, The Stafford London and YEP Enterprise - weren’t afraid to dig deep and fill bag after bag with waste, making the riverbanks and foreshores beautiful once again. Give an events professional a job to do and they will get it done, goes the adage, and in this instance it was certainly true!

“This is very typical of what we find on a daily basis,” said one Thames21 representative as she clawed at heaps of wet wipes stuck hard to the sand. “It’s a big problem in London. We’re not exactly sure why but it is heartbreaking to see and makes so much work for our teams of volunteers.”

Thames21 works on a daily basis to keep our waters and wildlife free from litter and pollution and offer events like this to corporate groups who want a hands-on experience helping a charity and the environment at the same time.

“We can go out as frequently as people want,” says corporate partnerships officer Seren Nelson. “It takes about three weeks to organise an event for the average group size of 50-60 people and we offer all the gear and support you need.”

Seren worked alongside her Thames21 team at The BNC Gives Back charity day and says we did an amazing job. “Everyone worked really hard and we’ve had reports from the River Port Authority that your group collected just over a tonne of rubbish that day.”

BNC Director Kim Paulden, who helped on the day says:

“We want to do more for charity and after organising fundraising raffles, advice clinics with charity event managers and donating bottles of toiletries to homeless charities we wanted a hands-on activity that people could do whilst chatting."

"Working with Thames21 has been a fantastic and educational experience and a great way to give back to the city that most of us do business in. I am so pleased with the results from the day and we look forward to doing another activity with them in July.”

Viki from Schroders agrees with Kim. “I will be telling everyone about this event one day in the old people’s home!” she jokes. “Seriously though, it was a great event for you to arrange for us Event Managers to give something back to the city we all love so much.”

Comments from social media on the day showed similar enthusaism for the city an the project:

"Huge thanks @bnceventshow for organising today’s Thames Clean Up with @thames21 totally eye opening. We cleaned up about a tonne & half of rubbish mostly face & baby wipes. Please, please don’t flush these! Londoners get involved & show your river some ❤️

"Today we're giving back to London in collaboration with the Buyers' Networking Club and @thames21. Our Senior Sales Manager Rachel masters the shovel and gets her hands dirty to clean the river banks of the Thames, together with fellow industry professionals. What a great Clean Team, or may we say Dream Team!"

"Networking with fellow #eventprofs at the #bncgivesback morning, cleaning up the Thames foreshore around #batterseabridge and talking events. I never want to see another wetwipe as long as I live."

As we gathered at the end of the day over hot tea and chocolate biscuits to reveal our ‘best find’ there was a little light at the end of the murky tunnel.

Some of our gang had uncovered - to their glee - lost wallets (empty), an ancient vase (possibly) and a moment of huge comedy came when one of our intrepid river rescuers, an event manager from Barclays, pulled out a pair of (surprisingly) clean and bright false teeth from the riverbed.

Another reason to keep talking about this brilliant day and this brilliant charity for quite some time.

This is just a small part of what the wonderful Thames21 charity does. Please find out more at: www.thames21.org.uk