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Driven by mass consumerism, throw-away plastic is likely to be one of the greatest threats our planet has ever encountered. It is a problem in which we have all unintentionally been a part of, with marine debris littered across the globe reaching a critical point. Since Fathoms Free began in 2014, we have seen how the 300 million tonnes of plastic being produced each year can affect our oceans – what once was a thriving blue planet is now an underwater wasteland. A large proportion of marine plastic comes from fishing industry – from waste such as rope off cuts, gloves and fish trays to ghost gear such as nets, pots and mono filament line which continues to trap and kill marine animals.
Another big contributor is food packaging – items such as bottled water, disposable cups and cutlery, straws and carrier bags, crisp and chocolate packets: the list is endless. Whether left on the beach by beach users, or swept in from the land by the wind, plastic that makes its way into the sea can remain there for up to hundreds of years until eventually breaking down into tiny particles known as micro plastic which enters human food chain when marine animals mistake it for food.
The most dedicated individuals making the greatest difference share the same quality; passion. Within our organisation, we have built a dedicated volunteer base who are all keen to roll their sleeves up and get stuck in to remove plastic from the marine environment. However, fundamentally, the way we view ocean plastics needs to change. As a group, we can only do so much; a much wider community action is needed to combat this ever growing issue.
With this idea in mind, our latest campaign, Paddle for Plastic, aims to encourage a more practical solution to our plastic problem. The ambitious initiative consists of two parts: the first one is to inspire the paddling community, who can access areas inaccessible to beach cleaners and divers, to pick up marine litter they encounter – and share their stories on the campaign’s Facebook page (FathomsFree FB PaddleForPlastic ). This is also a good way of letting us know if ghost gear was spotted in an inaccessible cove, so that it can be retrieved by other means, such as Fathoms Free’s rhib Casper, sponsored by World Animal Protection UK. The second part involves recycling plastic found in our clean-ups and turning them into kayaks, making it a perfect circular economy story.
For over two years, Founder of Fathoms Free, Robert Thompson has been in partnership with BeachCare and Keep Britain Tidy to develop a circular economy business model. The first stage of the initiative is building the infrastructure; ocean plastic collection, recycling, storage facilities, research and our business model. Keep Britain Tidy have helped us to build this infrastructure and with their support, we have recycled around 7 tonnes of beach waste over the past year in partnership with Exeter City Council. The plastic we collect gets sorted and recycled into the raw material for products – we have now successfully produced a body board and we are in the final stages of creating a prototype sit-on-top kayak. World Animal Protection talked to Rob about his kayak project in April 2017.
Our business model is based on the principle of diverting profits back into funding conservation activities within both Fathoms Free, such as Ghost Gear retrievals and Dives Against Debris, and the wider community. We have had discussions with various partners, such as National Trust and Cornwall Wildlife Trust, who have expressed their support for our campaign, and interest in using our kayaks in their activities.
Throughout the project, we have sought feedback from experts and had our project reviewed. Thus, the project was scrutinised and approved by Global Ghost Gear Initiative project review board. Our circular economy model was recently awarded second place at the Cornwall Sustainability Awards 2017 ceremony in the category of Tomorrow’s Contribution Towards Sustainability. We are very proud of receiving this award which was judged by a panel of leading experts in their fields at Cornwall and Isle of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.
As the threat of plastic becomes increasingly worrying, we have launched the Paddle for Plastic campaign to encourage the public to help us clean our seas. Please support our campaign by raising awareness of both our work and the work of other organisations trying to find a solution to this diverse problem. Get involved with us by keeping an eye out on our website and Facebook page for updates on our organised events. Or do you own paddle for plastic – anytime, anywhere – and share your stories with us on social media about your efforts – we and all other paddlers who follow our campaign page would love to hear from you! Let’s inspire each other!
How to get involved:
– Like and share our Facebook page: Facebook FathomsFreePaddleForPlastic
– Keep an eye out for our organised events
– Do your own Paddle for Plastic and share your story and photos on our Facebook page to inspire others
– Let us know of ghost gear sightings in Cornwall
Twitter: www.twitter.com/fathomsfree @FathomsFree
Tag us in your posts: #PaddleForPlastic #P4P @FathomsFreePaddleforPlastic