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Zac Efron documentary to raise awareness about plastic waste in Rainham

Netflix documentary Down to Earth, featuring Zac Efron, will be released on Friday (credit: Ivo Duran)

Actor Zac Efron has visited Rainham as part of a new Netflix documentary highlighting London’s plastic waste crisis. 

The star, known for High School Musical and The Greatest Showman, traveled to the Concrete Barges, an area of saltmarsh where tonnes of lightweight plastic waste accumulates and forms into huge plastic carpets. 

Efron worked with volunteers from the environmental charity Thames21 to pick up single-use bottles, cotton buds and food containers which wash up on the strandline at high tide. 

Zac Efron working to clear plastic waste (credit: Thames21)

“These areas are key green spaces for Londoners and important nursery grounds for fish and birds,” said Chris Coode, Thames21 deputy CEO. “There is now so much plastic in these saltmarsh habitats that you can hear the plastic crunch underfoot as you walk along.”

Thames21 and the Port of London Authority remove around 200 tonnes of waste from the Thames annually but there is no statutory monitoring of plastic impact on the river.

The environmental charity therefore set up a citizen science programme, Thames River Watch, to record the impact and have released the Thames Plastic Pollution report based on their findings. 

It shows a lot of London’s plastic waste is carried downstream and then washes up on standlines at high tide. Saltmarsh areas collect the plastic due to their location and reedbeds help trap the waste. 

The report also found the presence of microplastic and polystyrene in 20 of the 21 sites surveyed. 

“The presence of microplastic and polystyrene is a major issue in the Thames, too numerous to count and very difficult to remove via clean-ups,’ added Coode. “Microplastic will enter the food chain by being ingested by invertebrates, fish, mammals and birds.”

The London episode of Down to Earth will be released on Netflix on Friday, 10 July. 

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