A group of stand up paddle boarders from Southport will journey to Wigan on Sunday 30th September 2018 to clean up the canal with environmental campaigner Cal Major.
The group, SUP North, regularly runs clean ups in their local paddling areas in Southport, engaging their members positively in the issue of plastic pollution in the waterways.
With the increasing amount of press currently focussing on plastic pollution, more and more people are looking at ways they can be a part of the solution. This clean up precedes the Surfers Against Sewage and British Canoeing Autumn Beach and River Clean series, which aims for 4-500 clean ups taking place between 20-28th October.
The clean up was instigated by Cal Major, an ocean advocate, explorer and veterinary surgeon who recently set a new world record by becoming the first person to stand up paddleboard the entire length of the UK, from Land’s End in Cornwall to John O’Groats in Scotland; 1000 miles over 59 days. She paddled 750 miles of open ocean and 250 miles of inland waterways – canals and rivers.
During her trip, Cal witnessed heavy pollution in the inland waterways, particularly around built up areas. One of the more noticeably affected areas was Greater Manchester, where the canals run through the city, and the connection between the plastic we are using and that finding its way into the environment is very visible. In one hour of paddling one morning, Cal counted 691 plastic bottles floating in the canal in Wigan. With 38.5 million plastic bottles used in the UK every single day, and less than half of them recycled, it’s no wonder that they were the most common item Cal encountered in the waterways during her expedition.
“I wasn’t able to pick them up at the time, but was determined to come back and help clean up the canal, which provides enjoyment to so many people, and life to so many creatures. Growing up in Warrington, the North West is very close to my heart, and I would walk or run along the Bridgewater canal tow path most days, finding a little bit of peace amongst the business of life. I also wanted to continue to bring the message about plastic pollution inland, and encourage people to recycle their waste, and avoid single use plastic where possible.
The need to connect our plastic usage in land to that out at sea has never been more apparent. 80% of marine litter originates from land based sources, and most of it is single use plastic, used for a matter of minutes. We need to address this if we are to stand a chance of tackling plastic pollution. We need to bring the message inland.
Water users and those connected to the environment are generally more aware of the issues the planet faces, such as plastic pollution, and the stand up paddle boarding and canoeing communities have taken custodianship of the waterways the length of the UK, organising clean ups, educating people about the threat of plastic pollution and doing what they can to protect the waterways.
We can all be a part of the solution to plastic pollution. In the UK we use 38.5 million plastic bottles every single day, and less than half of them are recycled. The simplest way to help prevent this is to choose a reusable water bottle over single use plastic ones, and commit to filling up from the tap.” says Cal.
This Thursday 27th Sept was National Refill Day – the Refill App shows users where they can obtain free water refills UK-wide, and currently has some 12,000 locations registered. If each one of those stations was used just once a day, we would save on 4 million plastic water bottles nationwide each year.
Recycling is important too, and with a bottle deposit return scheme on the cards, soon recycling will be incentivised, which Cal is confident will hugely increase recycling rates.
“I encourage everyone to look at the plastic they are using in their everyday lives and reduce it where possible. It’s not a question of feeling guilty about the plastic you are using, but feeling positive about the stuff you avoid. Looking at the plastic pollution you see outside too is really important, and adding your voice to the growing number of people around the UK demanding change from the government, businesses and organisations to stop using so much unnecessary single use plastic is crucial – they are listening, and change is happening.”
The participants will meet at Crook Hall Inn, WN6 8LR at 11am on Sunday 30th September, and clean a stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool canal.
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