Have you ever seen a yellow fish painted next to a drain cover? If so it’s likely a part of the yellow fish campaign. The yellow fish campaign is run in Britain, and involves stencilling a yellow fish symbol next to drains to remind people that any waste entering them may go directly to the nearest open water – causing pollution and killing wildlife.
But we don’t put our rubbish down drains, do we? Well, we do. Litter is easily carried in water or by the wind, any dropped litter can so easily end up down a drain, and where it goes from there so unknown to us. It may go to a treatment plant, or into our waters. When in the water we really have no control over what happens next, oil is one of the biggest issues when in drain water, it doesn’t mix with water, and could potentially cause the suffocation of an entire lake. One litre of oil can pollute one million litres of drinking water⁴, a lot right? So remember only water down the drain. Oil can be recycled at local recycling centres, where it’s possibly used to make biofuel.
It’s believed that 10 % of all plastic debris ends up in the oceans¹, we might try to avoid directly placing debris in our water but, there are lots of drains that lead to water. That’s where the yellow fish campaign comes it, it raises awareness of drains which will go straight into the water works untreated. Some places the yellow fish will also tell you where they enter: beach, river, stream, lake, estuary etc. Marine litter is easily carried to the sea by the rivers².
So what kind of litter is found in these drains, in a survey it was found that 32% were tobacco products, 20% were plastic, 16% confectionary products, 16% paper, 9% glass, 4% metal, and 3% unclassified³. But Tobacco products aren’t that bad are they? 4.5 trillion cigarette butts enter the environment every year. Sadly, they will become more toxic as the filter will collect different chemicals found in the water, before some unsuspecting animal or child eats them by mistake.
But the yellow fish campaign is here to change that. It’s raising awareness of what we are doing to our waters, and it’s so simple to get involved!
As the campaign is run completely by volunteers you can do the project whenever you like. All you need to do is stencil a yellow fish next to surface water drains. To do this you do require the permission of the owner of the drain, on public land this will be your local highways department. You could also create leaflets to spread the word to your wider community.
Businesses can get involved too! Why not have your shop or development, more environmentally friendly and educate people too. Improve your environment to improve your profit, sounds good to me for just adding a simple yellow fish.
For more information about how to get involved in England click here.
- Thompson RC, Olsen Y, Mitchell RP, Davis A, Rowland SJ, John AW, McGonigle D, Russell AE (2004). Lost at sea: where is all the plastic? Science, 304, 838.
- Sadri, SS, & Thompson, RC (2014) On the quantity and composition of floating plastic debris entering and leaving the Tamar Estuary, Southwest England. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 81, 55–60.
- KAB, (2009) National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study. Keep America Beautiful, Inc. <www.kab.org/site/DocServer/Final_KAB_Report_9-18-09.pdf> accessed: 20/02/16
- Ashworth M, (2012) Yellow fish guidance manual [manual obtained in Exeter branch] 19/02/16