Turn the tide on plastic
The Whirlwind Charitable Trust is committed to marine conservation, which means we hate plastic pollution! Our trustees share a love of the seas and sailing, and many of the charities we support have a nautical focus, so we have seen first hand the deleterious effects of our society’s addiction to plastic. Far too much of it ends up in the sea, blighting its natural beauty. But in addition to the evidence of our own eyes, there is also hard, scientific evidence that plastic pollution is doing real damage to the marine ecosystem. Grants for marine environment improvement are available.
Scientists forecast that the weight of plastics in the oceans will exceed that of all the fish by 2050. Plastic microfibres from clothing have been found at the bottom of the very deepest marine trenches and in the bodies of 90% of the creatures that live there. Microparticles of solid plastic are present throughout the marine food chain, slowly killing the fish that ingest them and rendering large percentages infertile. We humans are an integral part of that food chain so we, too, ingest plastic particles from the fish we consume. The wellbeing of our entire planetary eco-structure is dependent upon the health of the oceans. It is a matter of enlightened self-interest for each of us to turn the tide on plastic in any way we can.
So below, we set out seven practical things we can do when going to sea, and nine things we can all do every day that will help turn the tide on plastic.
Seven rules when at sea
- Ban plastic drinks bottles! Take your own steel or aluminium bottle and fill it up from the tap. If you are the yacht owner or skipper, supply the yacht with enough non-plastic bottles for all crew members and install filters for tank water.
- Re-use plastic bottles. If you have to buy a plastic water bottle, make sure it is solid enough to keep re-using. Put a stop to buying and throwing away plastic.
- Smart Provisioning – don’t buy provisions in plastic packaging if you can avoid it. If it can’t be avoided, strip off all the plastic when storing the provisions and dispose of it considerately ashore before sailing.
- Keep a dredge net aboard – we all see floating plastic debris at sea and we can all make a contribution by fishing it out and storing it for proper disposal ashore.
- Deal with discarded fishing gear – no, it’s not your fault it’s there, but it’s in all our interests to deal with it. Use the boat hook to remove plastic fishing nets, buoys and other gear for disposal ashore.
- Separate waste aboard – space is always limited but that doesn’t make it OK to put plastics in with food and other ‘gash’. That way the plastic will end up in landfill and a surprising amount of that enters watercourses and then the sea. Your ship’s plastic waste should always be separated and disposed of in dedicated recycling bins.
- Spread the message – explain to friends and fellow crew why this matters. Encourage them to follow your example. And share your own ideas – we’d be happy to add any good suggestions to this website.
Nine rules for every day
- Say no to ‘disposable’ plastic products. Razors, ball pens, plastic flower pots, drinking straws, beakers and cups, knives and forks – he list is endless. Stop using them. Give them back to the retailer where possible and protest. Airlines are particular culprits.
- Food shopping: as for at sea – your fruit and veg do not need to be encased in plastic. Shop for loose goods or hand back the plastic at the checkout.
- Does it need to be plastic? Before making a purchase, check for alternative materials. If plastic is difficult to avoid, check it’s fully recyclable.
- Say no to six-pack rings – these plastic rings trap, harm and ultimately kill marine creatures. Take them off the cans and give them back at the checkout. This also sends a powerful message to the retailer.
- Avoid clothing with acrylic fibres – this may not be easy, but one of the biggest contributors to microfibres in the marine environment is discarded water from washing machines. Choose clothing made from wool or other natural fibres.
- Toothpaste and cosmetics – many brands still contain thousands of tiny plastic balls. Reject these brands and never use them.
- Don’t be fooled – lots of plastic packaging claims to be made from individually recyclable materials. Yet combined together, they cannot be separated for recycling – plastic bands wrapping plastic drinks bottles are a good example.
- Lobby your MP and your local Council. Governments – local and national – are better at talking the talk than walking the walk on dealing with plastic pollution. Demand action. Make it an election issue locally.
- Take recycling seriously – it’s not just something imposed on us by a tyrannical local authority. We need to achieve the highest, most efficient rates of recycling we can – and that means lots of personal co-operation.
Grants for marine environment improvement
Principal sustainability partner to Volvo Ocean Race entry ‘TURN THE TIDE ON PLASTIC’
Partnering Dee Caffari’s Volvo efforts with support from North Sails
The third key partner for the Volvo initiative
Plastic recycling: Your questions answered