On Plastic Patrol With Outdoor Hero Lizzie Outside16 August 2017
Last Sunday we joined outdoor hero Lizzie Outside for an afternoon of stand-up paddle boarding and canal clean-up, at one of her epic plastic patrol events.
This summer Lizzie Carr has been exceptionally busy. Fresh from her world record adventure stand up paddle boarding across the English Channel – she is now the first woman to stand up paddle board solo from England to France – she has been travelling up and down the UK cleaning up our canals and waterways as part of her plastic patrol mission.
Billions of tons of litter end up in the ocean each year and this has serious repercussions to the greatest natural resource that the Earth has.
Plastic debris is the number one source of pollution in the world’s oceans. It never completely degrades, and instead breaks down into successively smaller pieces that attract more debris. Seen as food by most marine life, and absorbing toxic chemicals from ocean pollution, it poses a significant health risk to a huge variety of sea creatures and to the whole marine ecosystem.
A staggering 80% of marine debris comes from inland sources, with litter finding its way from our network of rivers and canals down to our coastlines and then the world’s waters.
We saw just a small amount of this during our afternoon on the canals outside of Nottingham. Cans, bags, wrappers and much larger items have negligently been dumped into the water by people who are there supposedly to enjoy the outdoors.
By the end of the afternoon the waters in our stretch were relatively clean of litter, however there is so much more to be done – particularly as it isn’t the countryside waters that are the biggest issue. The closer you get in towards the city centres, the bigger the problem becomes.
Last year Lizzie took to Britain’s canals and rivers to investigate this problem, becoming the first person in history to paddle board the entire 400-mile length of England’s waterways – solo and unsupported – a journey that brought Plastic Patrol to the nation’s attention. Now she is using her channel crossing to highlight the global plastic crisis we are facing.
During the epic 9 hour Channel crossing Lizzie collected water samples for micro plastic analysis along the way and every four miles captured samples using a trawler net; the rest of the time plotting and mapping the bigger pieces to add to the existing map http://lizzieoutside.co.uk/blog/the-canals-are-choking. She will be working closely with Plymouth University to analyse and compile the results to build on the links between the big pieces of plastic we see everyday, and the detrimental impact of what this results in – micro plastics – and the journey it takes from inland to the ocean. The voyage will also help to illustrate the scale of what it out there based solely on Lizzie’s single journey across the channel.
According to the Ocean Project: “Plastic pollution poses a threat to human health, kills and harms marine life, damages and alters habitats, and can have substantial negative impacts on local economies.”
A healthy world ocean is critical to our survival. Every year, World Oceans Day provides a unique opportunity to honour, help protect and conserve the world’s oceans. Given how important our oceans are, it is amazing to think that more isn’t being done to protect them. As Jacques Cousteau – the pioneering marine conservation – said: “water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans”.
Ocean pollution isn’t limited to those who live in coastal zones, although about half of the world’s population lives there, with two thirds of the world’s cities in these zones and 70% of the global population being a day’s walk from the coast.
The ocean accounts for 97% of the world’s water, is responsible for over half of the planets oxygen and absorbing half of the CO2 – playing an important role in climate control, global meteorological systems, and clean the water we drink.
They account for $500 billion of the world’s economy, and provide livelihoods for millions of people the world over – not to mention helping to feed the planet and provide inspiration and recreation.
This doesn’t even take into account that the ocean depths are theorised to contain scientific breakthroughs in all fields, not least for medicines.
Former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon highlighted the importance of ocean conservation for the lives of everyone.
“We have to ensure that oceans continue to meet our needs without compromising those of future generations. They regulate the planet’s climate and are a significant source of nutrition. Their surface provides essential passage for global trade, while their depths hold current and future solutions to humanity’s energy needs.”
However, fighting against the millions of tonnes of plastic that enters our oceans annually is no easy task.
That is why the work of Lizzie Carr, looking to tackle the issue from the root of its problem and then lobby the powers that be – through detailed research and analysis to identify trends, hot spots and pressure points – will allow us to make real and immediate change. In the UK alone we spend more than 1 billion pounds a year combatting litter and plastic pollution, but that is not enough – it takes everyone doing their part to help.
To coincide with this, Lizzie will be launching the free #PlasticPatrol App (available on android and IOS) for people to plot plastic they find to paint a picture of problem areas and where resource is needed for clean ups. And it’s a global app so people can share findings from all over the world. All the results will then be populated on the first and only global interactive mapping system for plastic pollution. http://www.plasticpatrol.co.uk/
Lizzie’s campaign is a simple yet powerful initiative where she is pushing every single one of her own personal boundaries and comforts to bring about change. By inviting people to join forces and take ownership she is hoping that as a whole we can push for change and highlight the catastrophic impact of plastic use.
Find out more about Lizzie and get involved with the cause through the links below: