Study reveals most common waste items found in the Thames


A study by Barratt London found that single-use plastics make up 83% of all items found in the Thames foreshore.

The research explored the waste items found in the Thames, as well as the most common lightweight items that have been fished from the river. It also delved into which areas of the river which are wet wipe, plastic bag and general waste hotspots.

The study found plastic wet wipes to be the most littered item in the river. Barratt London says that when mixed with mud these plastic wet wipes form slimy layers. One of these mounds was 1.4 metres and covered 1000m2 – the equivalent of four tennis courts – Barratt London says.

Hammersmith Bridge Southside was the most common spot for wet wipes with Newcastle Draw Dock coming out on top for plastic bags while Small Profits Dock took the top spot for floating waste.

Wet wipe, plastic bag, and floating waste hotspots:

Rank Wet Wipe Hotspots Plastic Bag Hotspots Floating Waste Hotspots
1 Hammersmith Bridge Southside Newcastle Draw Dock Small Profits Dock
2 Fulham Football Club 02 Flats in Greenwich Queen Caroline Draw Dock
3 Battersea Bridge


Galleons Point Crabtree Wharf

The study found that food wrappers were the top lightweight item found in the Thames, making up 20% of all lightweight items floating on the foreshore of the river between 2015-2018.

Cotton bud sticks made up 16% of the total litter found in the Thames. Cups (both plastic and polystyrene) equated to 9% of the total litter found.

Drink bottles made up 3% of the Thames and water bottles represented almost half of all drink bottles found in the Thames. However, a total of 97,019 drink bottles were recorded and removed between 2016-2019.

Top lightweight items found in the Thames:

Top Lightweight items found % of the total litter found
Food Wrappers  20%


Cotton Bud Sticks


Cups (includes plastic and polystyrene)


Bottle Lids 8%


Takeaway Containers (includes plastic and polystyrene)




Drinks Bottles 3%
Building Insulation (polystyrene/foam) 2%
Straws 2%
Cigarette Butts 2%
Lollipop Sticks 1%

Commenting on the study’s findings, Piotr Prazych, commercial director at Barratt West London, said: “The study brought to light the items that should not be residing in the Thames – that could have very easily been recycled instead.

“We hope this new knowledge of how much waste is in the river will make a lot of people think twice about dumping rubbish into the Thames.”

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