The deposition of litter and rubbish is an increasingly significant environmental problem, with the dumping of shopping trolleys in rivers and canals impacting on flora, fauna and river management in some areas. The Mersey Basin Campaign (MBC) identified Skelmersdale in the north-west of England, and the River Tawd in particular, as a 'hot spot' for the dumping of shopping trolleys. In this study, methods for performing litter and shopping trolley surveys were developed. A survey of the River Tawd was performed during 2002, together with snapshot social surveys of local adults and children. Comprehensive yet simple methodologies to quantify and report litter and trolley accumulation over time are reported. The study successfully quantified the litter accumulation and numbers of shopping trolleys in the commercial sector of Skelmersdale and established the views of the local population. Pedestrian litter was the most abundant type identified, with the quantity of litter associating well with the presence of urban features. The shopping trolley survey identified local 'hot spots' and established the total number of shopping trolleys along a 1250 m stretch of the river. The first survey in April 2002 found 79 trolleys, which increased to 105 by July 2002. The river would probably not have been cleaned without the intervention of MBC, emphasising the importance of community and voluntary groups to the maintenance of local environmental quality. The presence of shopping trolleys and general refuse in the river presented a negative view of water quality to the public, highlighting the importance of loss of visual amenity as a perceived indicator of pollution. The study also identifies the social and environmental impacts of dumping shopping trolleys in watercourses and explains why physical barriers were the most successful means of reducing the dumping of trolleys.
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