"As a sea kayak coach I'm on the water daily, I have been stunned and disgusted by the state of our beaches in the UK. We can't just go on ignoring the amount of plastic in our oceans. Paddle Pickup C2C is just the start of something good. Expeditions like these will help to educate and reach out to more people, whilst also cleaning up our amazing waters in the UK."
Did you know that 50% of the plastic we use, we use only once and then throw away? From carrier bags to drinking straws and water bottles, single use plastics can take hundreds of years to degrade. All too often these plastics end up in our waterways, causing huge environmental problems.
This summer two ladies, Erin Bastian and Bex Band, decided they wanted to take action to raise awareness of this problem while helping to clean up our waterways. They created Paddle Pickup; a 300 km, coast to coast journey, from Bristol to London, with a team of seventeen women, collecting plastic from the water as they went.
Some of the ladies paddled the entire 300 km with Erin and Bex, while others joined them for different legs of the journey. Clare Osborn completed the whole route. Clare is the volunteer campaign manager for the Incredible Oceans, Whalefest event. She used the Paddle Pickup to raise funds to build a huge dynamic sculpture, using the plastic they collected along the way, which highlights the menace of single-use plastic.
Erin and Bex wanted to get people to think harder about the single use plastic in their lives. They hoped that combining adventure with environmental issues would be a great way of engaging people.
We need people to start using refillable water bottles or coffee cups, rather than a single use ones, or ask not to have a straw in their drink when they go out. These little things will help to reduce the amount of plastic which is getting thrown out after just one use.– Erin Bastian
The group travelled an average of around twenty kilometres a day, with a total of 150 locks to pass through along the route. Each lock, or group of locks, had to be portaged. This meant hauling their boats, gear and the plastic they had collected that day, from the water and then getting it all back in on the other side of the lock.
Night times were spent in wild camping in tents or in the relative comfort of churches and halls. Luckily the support from the public far outweighed any discomfort on the route. One evening the ladies were wild camping in a park at the back of some houses. They were worried to spot two figures emerge from a garden and head towards them. Were they going to be asked to leave? Not at all. The friendly couple were coming over to offer them the use of their hot tub and a glass of bubbly! A welcome comfort and break from the cold.
The people we met along the way were brilliant! Talking to people on the footpaths and on boats, had to be one of the highlights of the trip. We'd tell them we were paddling to London, and they would often look in disbelief and cheer us on. We talked to them about our mission and what they could do themselves to help the issue.– Erin Bastian
As much as the journey was beautiful and interesting, it was also tough. The ladies contended with all the Great British weather could throw at them, as well as the aching skin and muscles which come from back to back days of paddling. Once on the tidal Thames, coming into London they were buffeted by waves from passing boats and the impression of being on a choppy sea was increased by seals popping their heads up nearby!
Over the course of their adventure the group collected over 3000 pieces of plastic. That really was only scratching the surface of the problem. Some areas were so densely littered that the group simply could not collect it all.
Erin believes that we should never doubt the power of the individual. Each time one person takes a stand to make a difference it can lead to manufacturers and businesses looking for solutions and public pressure can result in policy and law changes.
With 160,000 plastic bags being used globally every second and eight million tons of plastic dumped in our seas each year, expeditions such as Paddle Pickup are so important.
To donate to, or learn more about, Clare Osborn’s fund to create an art installation from the plastic collected click here.
Bex had done very little paddling before joining Erin on this environmental adventure. You can read more about her experience on the water in her blog.
In 2018, the team will head out on a roadshow, with the data they gathered from their expedition, to speak to schools and events in the hope of inspiring people to change their plastic habits.
If you are interested in learning more about the Paddle Pickup and future events you can visit the Paddle Pickup Facebook page.