Tigers on the Tyne

By Carry van Lieshout

Trees, plastic bottles, tyres, scrap metal, and a plush blue tiger – these are just a few items fished out of the River Tyne as part of the Clean Tyne project. On 5 June 2014 Team Power and Water had the privilege of hitching a ride on the Clearwater, the project’s main debris-removal and monitoring vessel. While we didn’t clear any litter out of the river ourselves (although several team members had a go at steering the boat!), we learned a lot about working life on the Tyne as skippers Steve and Dave told us about their fascinating roles in making the Tyne into the cleanest river it has been for many years.

Boat on the Tyne

The Cleanwater on the river Tyne. Photo: M. Dudley.

Fishing rubbish

Fishing rubbish out of the Tyne. Photo: M. Dudley

The Clean Tyne project started off in 1989 as a result of the partnership between the Port of Tyne and the riverside councils of Gateshead, Newcastle and North and South Tyneside. It covers the entire tidal area of the Tyne: from its mouth to the boundary stone at Wylam, a distance of 19 miles. The project combines cleaning the river by the Clearwater with regular River Bank Raids, which are clean up events at the banks. In addition, it runs an awareness programme through education at schools in order to prevent further littering of the river. A monitoring system and the identification of hotspots where debris gathers helps to keep track of the cleanliness of the river.

Wood fished out of river

Wood fished out of the River Tyne. Photo: M. Dudley

The majority of debris found on the river is natural wood. The most recent monitoring report shows that 70% of debris fished from the Tyne are large or small pieces of wood that have been washed away from higher up the river system – the majority of which can be found after storms or heavy rainfall events. Another quarter of debris consists of man-made rubbish: plastic bags, food packaging and bottles being the major culprits. Scrap metal and tyres are other types of debris that regularly wash up on the Tyne’s shores.

While much of the plastics ends up on a landfill, in recent years every effort is made to recycle the debris found in the Tyne. Much

The tiger

Peter Coates and the tiger. Photo: Carry van Lieshout

of the timber is used for building projects or can be converted to wood chips to act as firewood. Scrap metal is made into art works and tyres can be used as playground soft coverings. Figures show that from 2009 onwards, less than 10% of the debris collected was send to a landfill – meaning that the majority of flotsam on the Tyne goes on to have a second life back on dry land.

The plush tiger wound up as the mascot of the Clearwater vessel – making it instantly recognisable anywhere on the Tyne.

Web links

Clean Tyne: http://www.gateshead.gov.uk/CleanTyne/Home.aspx

For the 10% figure in the last paragraph: http://www.gateshead.gov.uk/CleanTyne/Disposal.aspx