An environmental charity is urging businesses, residents and organisations that flank the River Forth and its estuaries to join a major campaign that aims to reduce the amount of litter that enters the ocean.

Led by the Hubbub Foundation, a London-based charity that works on campaigns to encourage environmental action, the Treasure Your River campaign hopes to stop the flood of plastic and general waste that enters the Firth and, subsequently, the sea.

A collaborative effort to prevent and reduce the amount of litter in UK waterways, the campaign is tackling five rivers that traverse Scotland, England and Wales; the Forth, Avon, Mersey, Thames and Severn and their tributaries.

Funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation, the initiative will initially focus on prevention and clean-up activities in five major cities based on these rivers – Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester, London and Cardiff, which between them are home to one in seven of the UK population.

Treasure Your River will launch in May 2020 and will educate the public about how rivers are transporting rubbish from our streets and riverbanks to the sea.

As well as tackling littering behaviour with branded bins and eye-catching signs along river paths, the campaign aims to remove 90 tonnes of litter from these five rivers and their tributaries over the next year. Businesses and individuals that sign up to help deliver the campaign will help design branding and materials that will suit their own city.

Trewin Restorick, from Hubbub, said: “The vast majority of plastics that end up in the world’s oceans are carried there by rivers. Cleaning up the river is one thing but preventing litter getting in there in the first place is really crucial. Until we change behaviour on land, this problem will just continue.

“Our research showed 81 per cent of people believe businesses should be doing more to tackle the issue. We want all organisations along the banks of the River Forth to come together and help halt the flow of litter into the sea. Whether you’re a sailing club, a school, a local business, a charity or a resident, we want to hear from you.”

A network of volunteers from organisations have already signed up, including Thames21, Keep Wales Tidy, Bristol Waste, Mersey Rivers Trust and Changeworks.

The plan is for the campaign to expand to further rivers and cities in the UK and Hubbub is keen to hear from potential partners in other locations interested in collaborating.

According to the Canal and Rivers Trust, 500,000 items of litter make their way into the sea from UK rivers every year. However new research shows 48% of people don’t believe that litter entering drains can easily end up in rivers and then the sea.

A survey of 2,000 UK residents carried out by Censuswide suggests 64% of people feel helpless about tackling the ocean litter crisis and 75% would like to do more to reduce the amount of litter ending up in the sea.

Treasure Your River will engage the public on how they can make a difference through simple behaviour changes such as taking their rubbish home with them, two-minute litter picks and responsible disposal of fishing tackle.

The campaign aims to create a legacy for each river, with an army of regular volunteers and the introduction of a litter-clearing infrastructure.

Liz Lowe, speaking on behalf of the Coca-Cola Foundation, said: “We are all aware of the terrible impact ocean pollution is having on marine wildlife and the environment, and collaborative action is critical. Part of the approach to this is to raise greater awareness of the causes of ocean pollution, which is why we’re funding Treasure Your River – to not only help educate people about how rivers are transporting rubbish from our streets and riverbanks to the sea, but to also help with the clean-up of these rivers.

“Water is fundamental to nature, communities and businesses. This is why Coca-Cola has long-standing partnerships with organisations such as WWF to help protect rivers – in England we’ve been working together for the last seven years in East Anglia to help preserve chalk stream rivers through supporting farmers with on-farm interventions, such as installing silt traps to reduce sediment running off fields into waterways.”

Former TV presenter and campaigner Heather Suttie is backing a Scottish Water campaign to reduce marine litter and protect Scotland’s rivers, waterways and coasts by not flushing plastic contact lenses down the drain. The Cycle Campaign is urging people to recycle contact lenses after research found more than 750 million are washed away or thrown into landfill every year.