A fully-decorated Christmas tree, 255 traffic cones, 79 bicycles and more than €150,000 worth of shopping trolleys – these are just some of the items which have been pulled from the River Lee in Cork city by volunteers.
Ever since the first big river clean up in 2007, community boat building organisation Meitheal Mara has been fishing items, both big and small, from the city's waterways.
To date, they have retrieved 603 metal shopping trolleys, 255 traffic cones, 91 life rings and 79 bicycles. They have also found items one would not normally associate with the River Lee.
“We have pulled all sorts out of the river. Last year we pulled out a Christmas Tree, complete with lights on it, we pulled out an armchair, an inflatable penis... that was quite something. That was a first for us. I guess it was from a hen party or something. You never quite know what you're going to get when you go out on a river clean up,” said Bádóireacht Manager of Meitheal Mara, Clare Hayden.
“We've also retrieved a toilet seat, a zimmer frame, submerged trees, beer kegs and road signs.”
Meitheal Mara tries to reunite the items with their owners as much as possible and will recycle or scrap what they can't return.
“With the shopping trolleys, it kind of depends how quickly we can get our hands on them. We try and get them back to the supermarkets but sometimes by the time we get to them they've rusted quite a bit and in that case we have to send them for metal scrappage,” explains Clare.
“Life rings we would get back to the council and road signs we'll get them back to the council too. We also work to reunite people with their belongings where possible – bicycles and submerged boats for example.”
They have also found items such as knives and cash boxes which Meitheal Mara would contact the gardaí about in case they are relevant to any of their enquiries.
While the organisation removes items from the river all year round, it holds a major clean up every spring during the low tides, using grappling hooks to fish items from the water.