Images of our seas choked with plastic waste are sadly becoming a familiar sight. But it might surprise you to learn it’s not just the oceans that are affected, but also our rivers and canals.
This is where Plastic Patrol comes in – it’s a movement encouraging people to hop on stand up paddleboards (SUPs) and pick litter from their local waterways as they paddle along.
“I set up Plastic Patrol in 2016,” says founder Lizzie Carr. “I’d been diagnosed with cancer, and I started paddleboarding as a low impact way of getting fit again.” It was through her new hobby that she “saw how bad the problem was with plastic along the waterways in London,” where she lived.
“I went out as often as I could and litter picked and cleared the waterways,” Carr explains. “Then I started inviting people to come and join me, and it’s grown.”
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Another day, another... TWO TONNE bags of rubbish collected from our waterways. Thank you to all 52 volunteers who joined @plastic_patrol in Walsall. We literally couldn’t have collected all this without you. Tomorrow we’re hitting up Nottingham... how many tonnes do you think we’ll collect from there? #plasticpatrol #sustainability #ecofriendly #ecoliving #climatechange #plasticpollution #plastic #walsall #birmingham #cleanup #litterpick
Now, Plastic Patrol is a country-wide movement, which combines stand up paddleboarding, yoga or parkour with litter picking expeditions. It comes as part of a wider trend for getting active, while also helping the environment – hot on the heels of “plogging”, a Swedish trend for picking up litter while going on a run.
Don’t worry if you’ve never hopped on a paddleboard before either. “It’s something that everyone can do – you look at a paddleboard and it can be a bit intimidating, but it’s actually very calming and relaxing,” says Carr. “You’re not made to stand up, it’s actually easier to sit down on your paddleboard when you’re litter picking.”
Plastic Patrol events are free (sign up on the website here), all you have to do in return is pick up any plastic you come across and log it on the app. If you don’t fancy getting active, there are plenty of other ways you can help – for example, becoming a community ambassador.
Plastic Patrol has a wider purpose as well – through its app, it asks people to take photographs and log any waste they find in nature, identifying what it is, how much of it there is and where it’s from. This data is then sent to scientists at the University of Nottingham, who analyse it and identify trends.
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“It is surely our responsibility to do everything in our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth” - David Attenborough. What does this responsibility look like? To us, being responsible means being aware of the world around us. It means thinking about the consequences of our actions. It means understanding that all life is connected. Being responsible means doing our bit when and where we can. It’s not about being perfect and overthinking every action. It’s about finding a balance between human needs and desires and the needs and functioning of the natural world. Responsibility is about being mindful and actually doing something when you notice a problem. Because however a big a problem is - the extent of plastic pollution or global climate change - we can always do something about it. Let’s all start being that little bit more responsible, however you interpret the word. #PlasticPatrol #PlanetPatrol
For Carr, the app is about “creating accountability and tracing the problem with plastic back to the source.” So far, 137,320 examples of plastic have been uploaded to the app across 42 countries.
Worrying environmental news can make us all feel a little hopeless at times, but getting involved with Plastic Patrol is the perfect way to start doing something tangible to help.
- Press Association