The Polish city of Gdańsk is offering free boat rentals to people who agree to collect rubbish from the river during their trip.

The ekoKajak campaign, organised by the Gdańsk Sports Centre (GOS), a municipal body, offers customers a choice of kayaks, pedal boats or a rowing boat, which can be rented for a period of two hours on the Motława river.

To qualify, people must then collect a minimum of 30 litres of rubbish per boat during their trip. The scheme, which is billed as a way to “get to know Gdańsk from the water and help the environment”, runs throughout May. The organisers recommend customers bring their own gloves, but garbage bags are provided.

Gdańsk, a historic port city on Poland’s northern Baltic coast, is a popular destination for kayakers and canoeists. However, its waterways have become littered with rubbish, including plastic bags and bottles as well as various forms of food packaging.

This has prompted various clean-up efforts. The Gdańsk branch of Wody Polskie, Poland’s state water management body, regularly organises schemes to collect rubbish. Last year, 120 bags of waste were picked up over one week from from green areas near the Motława river, reports TrojMiasto.pl

Meanwhile, a second “Seabin” – a large, bucket-like device which can catch up to 20kg of rubbish at a time from waterways – was installed in the Gdańsk marina in April this year, donated by the Mare Foundation.

There have also been wider efforts across Poland to clean the country’s waterways. In April, Wody Polskie launched a new campaign, Wody to nie Smietnik, (Water is not a rubbish bin), to draw attention to the problem of pollution. It emphasises the damage that waste can cause to animals, ecosystems and people. 

According to Wody Polskie, several thousand tonnes of garbage appear annually in Polish rivers and reservoirs. In the space of one year, it removed 34 tonnes of rubbish from the lagoon in Mietkow in Lower Silesia, with similar amounts collected at the Brodzki and Wióry lagoons in 2020.

In Wrocław, an average of 1.5 tonnes of rubbish is discarded across a single 1km section of the Oder over each weekend. Meanwhile, last year, volunteers and the regional water management board in Gliwice collected over 10 tonnes of rubbish from two reservoirs.

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