The first phase of a partnership project between West Cumbria Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency in the UK, which saw the removal of an environmentally damaging plastic liner from a 2.5km stretch of the Cumbrian river, has now been completed.
The River Keekle restoration project is the largest of its kind in the UK.
Nine tonnes of plastic have been removed from a 170-metre trial site and the riverbed has been restored with stone, allowing it to ‘renaturalise’.
“We estimate that 100 to 150 tonnes of plastic will be removed this year, leaving the full 2.5km stretch restored, with the potential to become great habitat for fish spawning,” said Luke Bryant, Project Manager for West Cumbria Rivers Trust
The plastic, which was destined for landfill, has now been made into picnic benches by Plaswood, a brand of Berry Global specialising in the manufacture of outdoor fencing, furniture and decking using recovered plastic. All the plastic removed from the River Keekle was sent to Plaswood’s recycling plant in Dumfries for shredding, cleaning and remanufacture into recycled plastic lumber, from which the company makes its end products.
Calling the solution a great example of the circular economy, Katherine Lorek-Wallace, General Manager at Plaswood, said the company has “helped to turn a potential environmental problem into a solution by creating second-life Plaswood benches that can be enjoyed by the public for years to come”.
To mark the achievement, Plaswood has donated a picnic bench made from the collected plastic to the West Cumbria Rivers Trust.