Plastic Fishing to clean up the UK’s waterways

The Brief

The amount of litter that is entering the UK’s waterways is increasing. Litter in the river is breaking down and being eaten by and harming birds, fish and other species. 80% of ocean plastic comes from land. Litter travels – from our hand to a storm drain, river or sea. 

Hubbub’s Plastic Fishing initiative aims to raise awareness of the growing levels of plastic pollution in our waterways and oceans, and the importance of the circular economy. Plastic Fishing boats are made from plaswood, which is 99% recycled plastic, and are used to fish plastic out of the UK’s waterways, which is in turn recycled to make more boats.

Barley has worked with Hubbub on this campaign since the launch of the first Plastic Fishing boat in 2017. Our ongoing brief is to:

  • raise awareness of the initiative and the issues it seeks to address
  • encourage consumers to dispose of litter responsibly
  • drive participation in Plastic Fishing trips by schools and businesses
  • help attract more corporate sponsors to fund more boats

Insights and Approach

For the launches of the first two boats, ‘Poly-Mer’ and ‘PET project’, we arranged photofilming and interview opportunities for the boat’s maiden voyages. Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey MP boarded the boat, along with local school children. 

Media outreach targeted commuter press, London-wide and local London press, in addition to national press, online news, broadcast, children’s news and trade press. Footage of the boat being built was offered to interested broadcasters. 

The third boat, the ‘Poly Roger’ was taken on a tour of four of the UK’s most littered waterways – in Manchester, Scotland, Birmingham and Bristol. Spending a week in each location, the aim was to inspire other parts of the UK with waterways, canals and riverways to follow suit.   

For the Plastic Fishing Tour, Hubbub partnered with local organisations and volunteers in each locationhelping to raise awareness and educate local schoolchildren and businesses about the issue through hands-on fishing trips to the boat.  

We secured a media partnership with the Daily Mirror which resulted in ongoing coverage of progress throughout the Plastic Fishing TourRegional media outreach was conducted in each location with local speakers giving media interviewsKey messaging invited the public to help stem the flow of plastic into the UK’s rivers and waterways by carefully disposing of litter.  

The Outcome

For the launch of the first boat ‘Poly-Mer’ we achieved 119 items of coverage with opportunities to see/hear of more than 124 million.  

In phase two, for the launch of ‘PET project’ we achieved 47 coverage items with opportunities to see/hear of almost 106 million. 

For the Plastic Fishing Tour in 2019, we achieved 301 items of coverage with opportunities to see/hear of just under 118 million. Across the four locations, 2,233 plastic bottles were collected and 192 bags of general waste. 

More than 2,500 people have been Plastic Fishing, collecting over 2,800 plastic bottles from London’s Docklands and 300KG of recyclable plastic. After plastic fishing, 90% of participants pledged not to buy a plastic bottle for a month. 

Funding from the City Bridge Trust has enabled London schoolchildren to experience free Plastic Fishing trips, while the fleet continues to expand thanks to funding from donors including Starbucks and Kiehl’s


plastic bottles collected


bags of general waste collected


people who have been plastic fishing



recycable plastic reclaimed