Published on October 13, 2023

Tackling plastic waste in the Ardèche river

Sabine, head of the Plastic Origins programme at our partner Surfrider, and our co-founder Séverine, visited Vallon-Pont-D'arc in the Ardèche region to meet Gille, a regular diver on this site and discover the impact of tourism in this location under strong pressure.  


Lost glasses, telephones, shoes, cameras, caps, clothes... Canoeists who take to these white waters often see their boats overturned. Whilst these accidental falls can be amusing, they leave behind numerous objects in the water, a number that rapidly becomes colossal when factoring in the number of people using the river. In high season, over 2,000 people ride the river every day, contributing to a total of 180,000 canoe and kayak trips each year. This amounts to thousands of pieces of macro-waste littering the Ardèche river beds. Then there's the pollution from the canoes themselves: when the polyethylene hulls of the boats hit rocks or other boats, they leave behind thousands of multicolored plastic shavings. As with any other type of plastic presence, these fragments travel in the ecosystem and soon reach the Rhône and the sea in the shape of tiny entities, adding to all the others. 


Gille, our host, also guided Sabine and Séverine through the upper bed of the Ardèche, still dry at this time of the year, to show them some "atterrissements", relatively old strata that have accumulated old waste which, here again, and depending on floods, are likely to be flushed and join the stream of waste bound for the sea. An unauthorized landfill was also observed on the banks of the Ibie, a tributary of the Ardèche, before it too was "erased" by the floods a few days later. 

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