Cash will help get people on board to clean up our canal

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An ambitious project to change people’s attitudes to dumping litter in the canal will get up and running soon – thanks to a generous grant.

The money, £62,215, comes from the Climate Challenge Fund and Re-Union Canal Boats will use it to educate people about the canal and how dumping has a huge impact on the environment.

The canalside social enterprise hopes that people will get on board – literally.

The venue it uses to deliver education will be its cheerful canal boat, The Jaggy Thistle.

Volunteer co-ordinator Lesley Young explained: “When we take people out on The Jaggy Thistle they are seeing it from a totally different angle.

“You can see how the canals get choked up.

“For example, we were out on the boat recently and couldn’t move because of a duvet someone dumped in the water – you can’t see that from the banks but that sort of thing has a massive impact.”

When the project gets up and running in April, extensive canal clean-ups are planned – but with a difference.

Rather than take everything to the tip, the volunteers want to take some of what is salvaged from the water and upcycle it.

“We will be recycling some of what we pull out of the canals during the clean-ups,” said Lesley. “You can salvage parts of bikes and other things and use them again. “

Based beside Lock 16 in Camelon, Re-Union Canal Boats currently offers training and the chance to learn new skills.

It has so many volunteers helping look after the waterways – including working as volunteer lock keepers – the staff had to find a new base in Camelon Juniors Football Club. This allows them to reach out even further into communities.

The staff will be working with people of all ages to get the message across that there are lots of small changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint.

Lesley is excited about the plans and believes they can really make an impact on the community.

“What we are looking at is changing behaviours – we’ll be going into schools and targetting communities.

“At the moment we’re just fire-fighting when we do our clean-ups. What we really want to do is stop litter happening in the first place.

“It’s getting people to understand the impact of what they are doing. At the moment, there is a lack of ownership so we want to encourage community ambassadors and make it a taboo to be seen dropping litter.”

A project worker is currently being recruited.

“We’re looking for an active person who doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty,” said Lesley.

The hope is that as soon as they are in post by April 1 – when the money becomes available – they will hit the ground running.

Over the year ahead, look out for events and workshops that will allow Re-Union Canal Boats to take the message out to communities.

And you don’t have to take to the water to appreciate the positive impact canals can have on our lives.

Some of the money will be used to encourage people to actively use the canals to travel to work or for leisure.

A big part of this will be to encourage cyclists who have lost their confidence to give it another go. The fairly flat, traffic-free, canal towpaths offer an ideal place for nervous cyclists to build confidence.

“We hope to help people understand that lots of little differences will join up to make a big difference.” said Lesley.

The canal project is one of more than 100 organisations across Scotland receiving a slice of almost £10 million of funding to support local action to tackle climate change.

“It’s a lovely project and we’re delighted to be funded to do it,” added Lesley.

Another local group, Forth Environment Link, has been given £97,633 to transform the old Central FM office in Falkirk High Street into an upcycling hub. This project, Revive Falkirk, is very much in the early stages but organisers at FEL hope that as well as having a shop selling upcycled goods they will also run lots of workshops to encourage other people to give it a go.

Derek Robertson, chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “Climate change impacts all of us and we need collective action to tackle it. We were delighted to have supported so many communities from across Scotland in applying for the Climate Challenge Fund.”