A plastic sailing experience

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This time we have a guest blog by one of our ambassadors Julia van Rooij. She was invited by By the Ocean We Unite (BTOWU) to come on a mini expedition. Here’s her story. “BTOWU  started last year and they organize (sailing) expeditions around the world to conduct research into plastic pollution (e.g. the collection of microplastics from the water surface with a neuston net in collaboration with research institutes) and create awareness amongst local people; kids, companies and governments to induce behavioral changes. They don’t do this just by themselves; they would love it if you and your friends or colleagues will join them once. For the coming period, they have sailing expeditions planned to the following destinations: Scotland, Southern England and the Channel Islands. Beside learning all about plastic pollution and what we can do about it, the expedition is also including some good stories, delicious (vegetarian) foods, and definitely loads of laughs, trust me. :)

Did you know that 23.000 kilos of plastic end up in our oceans every minute? So by reading this first part, 11.500 kilos of plastic entered our oceans. 

Why did we actually start making plastic?
Like founders Karl and Thomas said, when plastic was invented it quickly turned out to be a very cheap replacement for among others animal products such as turtle shields, ivory, and so on (ironically, turtles and whales where initially happy when the mass production of plastic started). Besides, it was also a big progression in the fabric sector because plastic is waterproof, easy to make, and it doesn’t conduct electricity. Thus, plastic was seen as a good replacement for animal products as well as for other, more expensive materials previously used. Unfortunately, we are experiencing overconsumption and overproduction these days. It’s time to find new solutions and replacers; luckily a lot of people, organizations, and brands are working on this.

Did you know that the filter of a cigarette is also made out of plastic? And it’s also the most found object during beach clean-ups? So please throw away that orange thing in the bin, or just don’t smoke.

The mini-expedition
BTOWU invited 25 persons and myself to join the mini-expedition, learn all about plastic pollution, exchange knowledge and ideas, and help research if there is any micro plastic floating around in the waters of the Markermeer (NL). The aim of this trip was to bring together people with shared interests in the human treatment of nature, so they could share their knowledge and go home with new inspiration and information.

After sailing for three hours and eating a delicious home-made pumpkin soup, we had a quick break at the lighthouse called ‘Het Paard van Marken’. We were asked to do a clean-up for 30 minutes, with teams of 15 people. The 100 meters we walked seemed so clean, but unfortunately a lot of people came back with a bag full of plastic trash. We noticed that a lot of pieces got stuck in between the rocks, which made it extra difficult to see and collect them.

When we started our journey back, the crew decided to start the search for micro plastic. The net was out and spent around 1,5 hours in the water to collect micro plastic. Did we manage to find any (micro) plastic pieces?

In Norway, there was a dolphin that stranded and got released back into the ocean several times. The last time, locals decided to relieve him from his suffering and investigated the body. They cut open the dolphin and found 30 plastic bags. 

Spread the message
All with all we got to hear shocking plastic stories, but also news about progression: people doing projects that are giving the plastic story a brighter and more hopeful side. It also was a great opportunity for people to find others to collaborate with in sharing the message of plastic pollution, as working together makes the message stronger. Please stay aware of your environment and help spreading the message.

Special thanks to Thomas, Karl & Noortje – By The Ocean We Unite​”

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