MORE than 100 tonnes of rubbish have been removed from the rivers Wye and Usk in a new eco-initiative underway this year.

Some 600 volunteers, with support from Keep Wales Tidy, The River Wye Preservation Trust, Powys County Council and led by the Wye & Usk Foundation, have now cleared over 700 miles of riverbank and several single-site rubbish dumps.

Among the various items removed have been car batteries, fire extinguishers, gas bottles, and drums of chemicals, all of which are potentially harmful to the rivers’ ecosystems and to people enjoying water based recreation further downstream.

Where assessed by item, over 60 per cent of the litter was found to be of agricultural origin, with the most common items being feed buckets and bags, black silage wrap and scrap metal.

At the end of April, a three month project to clear the river Wye from Builth Wells to Hay-on-Wye and tributaries was completed, removing over 904 sacks of litter and other items. The project built on similar initiatives in 2011 and 2012 to clear the Lugg and Arrow and the top end of the Wye from the source to Builth. Another clear-up is planned for 2014 on the Hay to Hereford reach.

Tony Norman, a retired farmer and trustee of the Wye and Usk Foundation who has organised the past three river clean-up projects, said: “We were pleased to have the wholehearted cooperation of the farming community to allow us on their land in such a difficult spring but disappointed to find just how much of the rubbish came from the agricultural sector.

"What is especially worrying is that this is just the visible side of agricultural pollution. Farmers may be custodians of the land – but what about the water?"

Rachel Palmer from KWT said:  “It’s great that our three charities and Powys County Council co-ordinated so effectively to support community volunteers; we achieved a great result together that none of us could have managed alone.”

Simon Dereham of the River Wye Preservation Trust said: “Our principle aim is to help preserve one of England and Wales’s most beautiful rivers and we will continue to support all action in future efforts that will help keep our rivers clear of pollution and rubbish.”

Stephen Marsh-Smith, Executive Director of the Wye & Usk Foundation said: “Unsightly plastic hanging from bankside trees and bushes sends out the wrong message to visitors who come to fish the river or to enjoy the scenery. It’s really good to see people cooperating in litter removal but it would be much better to manage it at source.”