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Clean-up along creek in Hilden, Germany

Awareness creation is essential, but it's even better in combination with some practical action.

We had done some prospection to see where best to plan our clean-up effort in and in the vicinity of a local creek connected to the river Rhine. From the bike the paths for pedestrians and bicycles looked quite reasonable. So we planned for a long walk along the Hoxbach creek for Saturday afternoon, 4 June, in support of World Ocean Day.

The municipality provided us with some materials, like special collection bags and grippers. We added face masks, protective gloves and a couple of longer grippers not to bend down so much and off we went in the early afternoon.

Once at it, we discovered at a closer look that there was a lot more garbage around than anticipated. Cigarette butts need to be picked up one by one. That takes time. And there were lots of them from the major brands, particularly on a large parking lot next to blocks of housing and a former school.

Even from the creek itself we extracted some garbage like nappies and plastic bags (very few though).

In the end, in about two and a half hours we collected six (6) kg of garbage. The vast majority of objects thrown carelessly away were indeed cigarette butts, face masks and all kinds of wrappings for sweets.

The numbers of butts thrown away suggests the smokers are unaware of the fact that cigarette filters contain more than 100 toxic substances after use and can kill fish, especially in smaller volumes of water. One of our group was a smoker herself, but she always carries a portable ashtray along if she wants to smoke. That should perhaps be promoted more insistently to prevent the poisons spreading in the environment.

Some people we met on the tour stopped to encourage us. One grandpa praised us in front of his grandson asking what he had learnt in school about the issue. The boy said, 'oh we learn how to separate garbage by category and dispose of it in different containers'. Grandpa: 'ok, that's a good beginning. You should also ask the teacher to explain why the ocean is so important for our health and wellbeing, how things are interconnected and we need to be more protective to water and nature in general.'

A second clean-up action was conducted on Saturday, 11 June. It shall focus on another section of the local creek. Meeting point was opposite the Naturhof, corner Marienweg/Gerresheimer Straße at 14h30. Registration welcome at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A small group of neighbours responded and carried out a clean-up along the next stretch downstream collecting 12 kg primarily of plastic garbage, again an even greater number of toxic cigarette butts, but this time also shoes, a broken plastic helmet for bikes, cans, face masks and lots of plastic wrappings. In the creek itself we collected plastic bags, a jacket and some bottles. We were happy to make our contribution to prevent particularly the plastic from draining into the river Rhine and from there into the ocean. The visual pollution in the lush vegetation along the river banks and paths was low compared to the garbage sometimes found around glass or paper containers in bigger cities or central collection spots. Nevertheless a closer look still generated several kilos - a considerable quantity when thinking of the low individual weight of cigarette butts which made up the overwhelming majority of items. We agreed that there is room for improvement.

So, in the end, we were quite happy for our contribution to the prevention of at least some of the plastic and chemical contamination.

The regional newspaper Rheinische Post reported on June 16/17 about the clean-up activities for World Ocean Day.