We’ve all heard about plastic pollution by now, and the harm it’s causing the oceans and their inhabitants. But rather than the doom and gloom, I want to deliver a positive message, a call to action, empowering people with a seriously easy solution to help protect our gorgeous marine life against one of the most common offenders out there. #OneLess plastic bottle.
Aren’t we lucky in the UK to have clean, safe, cheap or even free drinking water, straight from our taps? Single-use plastic water bottles are obsolete in our society, and yet we continue to buy them and they continue to impact the health of our planet! In the UK, we use about 38.5 million plastic bottles every day. Less than half of them are recycled. Even those that are recycled have a great big carbon footprint of energy used to make them in the first place. A plastic bottle to hold one litre of water requires 3 litres of water to make it. The amount of oil needed to make a bottle would fill one quarter of its final volume. These are precious resources, so why are we squandering them on something so unnecessary? And then releasing the plastic into the environment to do even more harm? It is estimated that a plastic water bottle will take over 450 years to break down. It doesn’t biodegrade into nice natural fish friendly compounds, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, killing sea birds that eat it and harbouring dangerous, carcinogenic chemicals. The toxins it leaches are ingested by fish, and further up the food chain… humans.
I wanted to do something about it, and so I set off on a mission to stand up paddle board around the entire Cornish coast, a 260 mile voyage, to educate people on the issues of marine plastic, but also to empower people to make better informed choices, and one simple solution. I challenged the public to go the summer without buying a plastic water bottle. It really is that simple. Buy a reusable bottle, and refill it from the tap. Think ahead before you leave the house and fill it up, ask for refills when you’re out and about, or look up refill schemes in your area.
If you have never Stand Up Paddle Boarded before, let me tell you a bit more about it. It is really quite pleasant, for an hour or two, on a flat, calm, windless day, with some mates. I hadn’t fully considered the magnitude of what I was undertaking; 20miles a day of open ocean in all conditions, often without talking to another being for hours on end. But Cornwall in August would be flat, calm, sunny, delightful, right? Wrong. Very wrong. We were hit with unseasonably terrible conditions, headwinds that lasted for days and meant slogging away full power against seriously strong winds, putting in ten times as much effort to get half as far, and sometimes despite our best efforts, actually going backwards. Overhead swell which somedays made it impossible to get away from the beach, threw us off our boards repeatedly, and threatened to slam us into cliff faces. Tidal races which sucked us in and spat us out in the direction we’d come. And fog and rain storms which rendered us lost, soggy and cold. And looking back, I wouldn’t change any of it.
We found hundreds upon hundreds of plastic bottles on beautiful, untouched beaches that you could only access from the water. They were being washed up there – bottles that had been used once for the sake of convenience, then thrown “away”. Well, there is no away when it comes to plastic, and our obsession with single use bottles. They persist, and cause a great deal of harm in the meantime.
Paddling around Cornwall was one of the most eye opening and humbling experiences I could have ever hoped for. I connected with myself and the ocean, I learnt about the conditions, the tides, the power of mother nature, and how unbelievably vulnerable I was to this. On more than one occasion I was given a very stern lesson in respecting the ocean. I saw dolphins, sunfish, and shoals of mackerel bubbling under the surface of the water. I saw sea birds and I was chased by seals. I had no idea what was going on on land, or in London, or the state of the bank holiday Cornwall traffic. It was me and the sea, and it was beautiful. But each stunning beach I came to that was multicoloured from plastic pollution was a stark reminder of the vulnerability of our planet too, and the relentless, ungrateful harm we are causing it for the sake of saving a few seconds of our time. There really is no excuse. Refuse single-use plastic water bottles, ask for refills; make buying plastic water bottles something you just don’t do. #OneLess