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We pound the streets of London's riverside for WasteAid

Karen Cannard and Louise Gallagher at the finishing line on Saturday’s walk. (2752609)
Karen Cannard and Louise Gallagher at the finishing line on Saturday’s walk. (2752609)

On Saturday, my friend Louise and I left the rolling landscape of Suffolk for a day in the searing city heat of London, to walk 25 kilometres from Putney Bridge to Tower Bridge, writes Karen Cannard.

With a route that took us along the Thames Path, through Putney, Battersea, Chelsea, Vauxhall, Westminster and into the City of London, we crossed bridge after bridge, taking in riverside views of barges, pretty churches and modern high-rises. With sights as eclectic as the Pagoda in Battersea Park to the post-modern design of the MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall, there was plenty to distract us from the increasing body aches reminding us of the miles that had passed under our feet.

If this had just been a weekend pleasure ramble, we might have stopped from exhaustion when our route was diverted through the People’s Vote march at Parliament Square, packed with protesters. But this wasn’t a leisurely stroll. It was a mission – to reach the finishing line in the fundraising walk for WasteAid UK.

If you work outside the waste sector, it is very likely that the activities of WasteAid will be news to you but the ambition and successes of this four-year-old charity have ensured that it’s now gaining the attention of the public, too.

In short, WasteAid is a development charity that helps communities in low-income countries to improve their environment and livelihoods by teaching them how to recycle.

Here in the UK, we are used to council facilities that enable us to recycle on our doorsteps. However, globally, one in three people still don’t have access to a decent waste system, causing pollution and impacting on their health and environment. Coupled with this is the plastic pollution in the marine environment. We’ve now reached global crisis point, as highlighted by Sky’s Ocean Rescue, BBC’s Blue Panet II and its latest initiative, Plastics Watch.

WasteAid helps to resolve these issues, working with inland and coastal communities to set up small recycling centres that keep plastic, and other waste, out of rivers and oceans, while also creating jobs and improving public health. Local trainers also help develop markets for locally recycled products, such as biofuels made from organic waste and paving tiles made from waste plastic film - all at minimum cost to ensure that local enterprises can remain sustainable.

Our ‘Walk for WasteAid’ took place thousands of miles away from those communities, but every recycling bin that I passed on those London streets served as a reminder of the recycling gap that exists.

Winding our way through the sheer weight of the crowd at Parliament Square felt like we’d walked an extra mile just to get back to our route at Westminster Bridge. That’s when we felt our most exhausted, with one-third of our walk still to go.

But after a short rest, I am glad we got back on track. We were now in territory that I knew well - the South Bank, leading to the Tate Modern, London Bridge and onto the Tower of London. I’ve walked that route many a time as a visiting tourist. The end would soon be in sight.

As we crossed Tower Bridge and approached the finishing line, we joined the many other supporters who had helped WasteAid celebrate their biggest sponsored walk yet.

I predict it will get even bigger. If the number of requests from friends to join in next year is anything to go by, WasteAid might even get a full Suffolk posse.

Congratulations to all who took part. More information can be found at wasteaid.org.uk and do watch this space for how to take part next year. Meanwhile, it’s not too late to donate to this year’s Walk for WasteAid. For details, please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/karen-cannard1.