How the community is working together to keep the river and local streets clean on boat race day

Published: Friday, April 5, 2019

The council is busy making preparations for the great Boat Race clear up on Sunday as it clears the streets of the litter left behind by the thousands of rowing fans who’ll be flocking to Putney to watch the start of this year’s Oxford v Cambridge showdown.

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Top of the list of priorities will be the race against time to clear Putney Embankment of litter to prevent it being washed into the Thames – with a high tide expected just after before 5pm.

Each year tonnes of litter is picked up in Putney following the boat race. This includes around 50,000 single use plastic cups that are used by pubs.

But in an effort to limit the environmental impact of the event, Putney’s pubs will be serving up pints and other drinks in reusable cups, slashing the amount of plastic waste generated on boat race day.

This initiative has been organised by the council supported Positively Putney Business Improvement District (BID), which has purchased 14,000 reusable cups for use by eight pubs along the river and on the high street.

People will be able to reuse their cups or return them to the pubs, which can then be washed and re-used up to 50 times, potentially saving tens of thousands of single use plastics ending up in the river or landfill in one day. The cups will be retained by the pubs and used again for future large-scale sporting events.

Litter that is dropped on the streets will start to be collected just after 4pm by a 15 strong team of cleaners using brushes, brooms and motorised road sweepers.

Additional litter bins are also being deployed along the Embankment so that people can properly deposit their rubbish.

And volunteers from Putney Tidy Towpath - a group of dedicated local people who clear litter from the towpath and foreshore - will also be out in force on Sunday afternoon as part of Putney's clean up efforts. To find out more about the valuable work they do and how to become a volunteer visit

The council’s plea to rowing fans to dispose of their rubbish properly – or bag it up and take it home with them - follows on from the recent “For Fish’s Sake” campaign which highlighted the damaging impact of waste entering the Thames.

The campaign saw rowing clubs, which are a major focal point of activity on the river, especially around Putney Embankment, being urged to play their part in protecting London’s marine environment. 

As part of the campaign, local rowing clubs helped develop a Rowers’ Charter, including a promise not to drop plastic rubbish which can easily blow into the Thames and harm marine life.

Wandsworth's environment spokesman Cllr Steffi Sutters said: “It’s really important that everyone plays a constructive role in protecting our river and its wildlife by preventing litter, especially plastics, from ending up in the water.

“I was very concerned that after last weekend’s Head of the River Race, the Putney Embankment and foreshore were littered with plastic pollution. This weekend’s boat race is a much bigger event so the potential impact on the river is far greater.

“We will be playing our part by deploying our clean up crews immediately after the race, and the Putney BID has done some tremendous work in organising all these reusable cups so that Putney’s pubs don’t need to serve drinks in single use plastics – but we also need rowing fans to play their part too and work with us to protect our environment.” 

Every year 300 tonnes of rubbish are cleared from the Thames and eighty per cent of plastics found in the ocean were originally dumped on land. Here’s what people can do to help: 

  • Use the bin – not the gutter, not the river, not the pavement
  • If you see some litter and you’re near a bin – please pick it up
  • If the bin is full, find another one or take your litter home 

For more information about the For Fish’s Sake campaign visit the council’s website.