A HUMAN finger and a can of Tennent’s with a photo of Carol Smillie on it are just two of the things found by the team who are cleaning up a major river that runs next to East Renfrewshire.

Just last week, 14 shopping trolleys, three bikes and five scooters were pulled from the White Cart Water.

The river runs from Renfrew, through Paisley and parts of East Renfrewshire including Clarkston and Eaglesham.

Throughout the Covid-19 lockdown, Paul Richardson and his team, Kerry, Crystal, Joseph, Yukko and Cat, have been working hard to depollute the water.

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They’ve collected more than 500 bags of plastic bottles so far.

“The most common things we pull out the river are trolleys, cones, road signs, plastic bottles, insulation foam, footballs, and tennis balls," Paul said.

“Last year we retrieved 166 tennis balls and 92 footballs.

“The river is in a state. People need to come together as a community to help clean it.”

Paul, who has kayaked for 20 years, started cleaning the river after setting up his own business, Calamity Kayaking, 18 months ago.

It was something he had always wanted to do after working in construction for 16 years.

The 45-year-old from Paisley, said: “We’re mostly trying to get adults out onto the water so that what we pass on to them, they can pass on to their family. Then they can have cheap adventures rather than pay big companies to take their family out.”

Barrhead News: Paul RichardsonPaul Richardson

When travel restrictions were in place, Paul was running kayak lessons locally and this is when he spotted how much litter was polluting the river.

“Joseph and I noticed six trolleys. When we went up to collect them, we were gobsmacked to find that there was actually 14 of them.

“Every single one we picked out would have been in the river for at least five years. Some of them were that bad, when we grabbed them to gather them in the one place, they were just breaking in our hands.

“The only way we could get the stuff out was using a pulley system. We had to pull every trolley onto that bridge. It was horrendous.

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“Over lockdown, I did an investigation on the river to see where everything is going in and it’s through bridges. There is not really any physical place for humans to fling the stuff over garden fences or anything like that.

“We would love for the councils to erect some protection to help stop the pollution. You can’t make the bridges bigger, but you could have a high barrier or railing put in place.”

On Friday, the team headed to Pollok Park to continue their quest, and our sister paper, the Glasgow Times, joined to take some photographs of them in action.

Traffic cones, car tyres and what looked like part of a tent were just some of the items recovered from the beauty spot.

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“The most unusual thing we’ve found is probably a finger, which was just at the mouth of the river in Renfrew. That was about six months ago. We just put it in a bag and handed it into the cops.

“We’ve also found a lot of knives and phones.

“About a year ago, I cleaned Stanley Castle Reservoir in Paisley. I found a Tennent’s can in there with a picture of Carole Smillie on it, so that tells you how long that’s not been cleaned. It’s a shambles.

“I can assure you that Renfrewshire Council nor Glasgow City Council have cleaned the White Cart River in a long time.

“My company doesn’t get any funding, and I didn’t get any help over Covid. I’m watching all these charities and associations get funding for the environment and they’re not spending it where it needs to be spent.

“I’m angry at the state of the place. I’m pretty scunnered.”

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A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said the local authority does not have an on-going responsibility to clear the White Cart Water. He added: “Sadly people do dump their waste indiscriminately on natural spaces within the city, such as the White Cart Water.

“We always welcome the efforts of any citizen determined to clear and dispose of litter and waste found on public spaces in a safe and responsible manner.

“It is often dangerous to recover items from the river. If we do receive a request in relation to a specific incident, we will inspect the location and assess whether we can remove the fly-tipped material.”

Paul and his team, who also carry out litter picks at the River Clyde, collected 67 bags of plastic bottles in one day recently.

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They have also removed 76 trolleys at Braehead Shopping Centre and had to hire a boat for them to be discarded of.

In November, during the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), Paul is planning to protest.

He said: “We’re using 200 of the bags of plastic bottles and we’re going to put sheets of plywood on the top. We’re going to sail it up the River Clyde with a speed boat and use it as an island and camp on it over the summit to highlight the state of the rivers.

“I’m a great believer that the summit shouldn’t be going ahead because I think the planet should have been fixed well before now."