I have long been an admirer of this group of guys from South Wales, who are making a positive step towards getting rid of hair, without the need to continually throw plastic in the bin. They have also come on as a sponsor of The Plastic Project, so very much looking forward to removing hair and working with them. If you haven’t seen them before hit their website right here – www.mutinyshaving.co.uk – we’ll have some more on these guys shortly.
We’ve been away for a little while, filming, and shooting and making books. We’ve just returned from Ireland, which was pretty much beyond epic, but sadly absolutely covered in plastic. Even these remote, really intense coastlines are covered, I was more than a little surprised because it is one of the benchmark locations. I have archive shots and footage from the late 1990’s and early 00s and there is no sign of rubbish. I was half expecting to find pockets, collector zones, but even on the most exposed and intense coastlines there is plastic, not covering every inch of the beach or slab, but clearly visible, in fact you can’t look in any direction without picking out a bit of trash.
We’ll be releasing a short film, some surfing and the really epic surf shots down the line, but in the meantime, here’s a little taster of what we scored from the legendary bodyboarding crew.
When I am attending events, or delivering a talk at an event the number one thing I get told,is that eradicating plastic is impossible because people won’t avoid the things they love.
Well the thing is, there are creative and ingenious folk out there who simply change the rules. I love coffee, but it’s hard to get it with zero plastic interaction, whether it be in bags or capsules or single use cups. I have also always fancied a Nespresso style machine, but even the so called eco friendly aluminium pods aren’t good (plus 13500 go to landfill every minute!), then I found HALO. Out of the blue friend of The Plastic Project, Sam Buckle, posted a link, and we are loving this.
It’s so simple. A coffee pod that is plastic free, and totally compostable. They are made by combining bamboo and paper pulp, and have been engineered to deliver the same water flow and taste as a normal pod, and then compost in 90 days or less.
This is an epic example of how we can design our way out of our problems, so we don’t have to give up where we are, we just get smart, and get rid of plastic out of the equation all together.
Great work HALO, hit any of the links or images in the feature to go and check them out.
It is great working with someone as incredibly experienced in the world of film making and television as Mike Cunliffe, especially when he is as passionate about surfing and the environment as well. For those of you who didn’t know Mike recently directed the incredible double bill of Operation Whale – Britain’s Sharks, which aired on ITV last Easter. Unsurprisingly it is up for an award courtesy of the Royal Television Society in the southern region for best factual series, amazing work Mike and crew.
Here’s a couple of clips from the film, the first of Humpbacks feeding, using bubble netting and the second the sharks feeding on the whale carcass that had drowned due to fishing gear. This was shot 50 miles off Cornwall, but bear in mind this is happening all over the Atlantic, 2-3 whales of this size die in the Atlantic every day naturally creating these feeding frenzies.
We’ve been working really hard on our educational projects of late. These have become a core part The Plastic Project, and critically we’re already in hundreds of Primary schools. Time taken on the educational project has led to less time being spent on contributing to the website. But it has been amazing to see The Plastic Project being used alongside work from CNN; seeing Primary school kids using the material in class; receiving feedback from teachers and pupils; plus going live into classrooms which has been brilliant. If you’re a teacher and would like to know more about the project, check out https://ataleunfolds.co.uk
Plastic bottles, they are now on every beach on the planet, we can pick them up and turn them into yarn; recycle them; put them in landfill. But where we have to be aiming is stopping them getting there in the first place. Trouble is we’re all a bit lazy, we’re not recycling, and in worst cases we’re throwing them away. Of course the very worse case is when they end up in the natural environment, so what’s the solution? Well ultimately we stop drinking out of them and eventually replace plastic in the bottle making process. Of course this is going to take a long while to change, so let us incentivise recycling: deposit return seems the smartest way, right? So Surfer’s Against Sewage, Greenpeace and a couple of other groups have active petitions to get this rolling (sign SAS one HERE), not that such schemes don’t already exist. Walk into most Ikea stores and a number of other stores and you can deposit plastic bottles in return for vouchers to spend in that store. So the tech exists, and we can go and do it right now if we want to, but can we get this nationwide and into legislation? Sounds good, right? Well here is the sticking point, deposit return schemes work by adding say 10p to the cost of each bottle. That deposit is then refunded when you take it back, which is fine, but as anyone in business will tell you no company is going to like sticking money on their product. Price rises make consumers jittery, plus you have to explain the whole thing that you get that price increase back. Problem is it’s a busy world, and the concern obviously from drinks companies is that people will simply stop buying, hence Coca Cola started lobbying government to not even consider this. Fortunately Coke caught a lot of flak, and at least in Scotland have backed down and are behind the project. It’s an essential next step in closing the loop on bottles, but is just that: the next step. Finding an alternative material to make the bottles with is the only true longterm solution, but in the meantime, sign that petition by clicking the image.
Indonesia to spend $1 Billion
Finally in this dispatch, Indonesia has pledged 1 Billion dollars to clean up their archipelago. Sounds a lot, but that is one hell of a task. The good news is at grass roots level this already happening, whether it be local authorities cleaning beaches, or campaigns to end the use of plastic bags. Not that we love stats too much, but how’s this – the average Indonesian uses between 0.8 to 1 kilogram of plastic bags every year, most of which end up on rivers and streams and are washed away to the sea. There are 250 million people in Indonesia, that’s a lot of plastic bags in the water every year.
The overall aim is that Indonesia will cut the amount of plastic in its water by 70% by 2025, and as the planet’s second biggest polluter when it comes to ocean plastic after China, this is a pretty significant effort.
It’s what gets you up on those dark winter days and keeps you going on those light short nights of summer.
Ian Battrick and Timmy Turner were sat in a small hotel, the owner had taken to us; after all surfers in this remote part of Iceland were rare, especially surfers that insisted on camping in a couple of feet of snow. We were not just doing it for fun or for effect for Timmy’s movie, though Iceland is pricey, and this being our sixth trip up here and having never slept in anything but a tent, or just outside, it seemed the natural thing to do. We sheltered in the hotel as the wind built, drinking way too much coffee and checking the internet, the swell was due to go through the roof in the next few hours, all be it with a bad wind, and then back off to give us a couple of days on the fickle reefs and points in the area. We left after a couple of hours, caffeined out of our minds to go back to the beach where we had pitched the tent. This tent had been everywhere with Timmy, it was like a constant in traveling life for Cold Thoughts, a bomb proof shelter, it never leaked, it never failed us, and now as we pulled up to the beach it was not there. We all jumped from the car, nothing, just a patch on the icy ground and one peg, it appeared some Icelandic pikey had stolen it. Ian and Timmy were a little dazed, we ran to the top of the dune in case our Viking thieves were still in sight, but no sign. It was freezing, a wind chill way below zero, the ground solid with three day old icy snow. We had another tent, but it wasn’t up for an Icelandic gale. In the distance though, about half a mile away we could see material flapping, in what looked like a frozen ditch. We skidded back along the snow covered track and pulled up next to the frozen waterway and there it was, half underwater. A blast of wind, not thieves, had removed the tent clean from the icy ground and dumped her, our home, in a freezing ditch a half mile away. It was a grim scene. The one thing that kept us dry and, with three grown men in, warm at night, was now drenched. It then started to snow.
What happened next was a little bit mental. Exploring Iceland involves crazy amounts of driving, swells rise and fall so quickly that you have to be perpetually on the move to chase it down, along with keeping up with continually changing weather conditions. We had no where to sleep, we were already in the teeth of a gale that originated over the ice pack of the Arctic, so we opted to drive. It was early afternoon on a Sunday. Our car was packed with boards, camera gear, a soaking tent and a couple of crates of duty-free ‘viking’ beer. Ian drove, he doesn’t drink much anyway, and just egged Timmy and myself to keep fueling up. We checked an area in the failing light, it was swamped under a big storm swell. Checking the map we discovered the next promising area was a good six to eight hours drive away, along what looked like a combination of sealed and unsealed roads. Ian was driving so it was his call, “if you’ve got enough beer, I’m good to do the driving for ya”. As we drove, the rain turned to sleet and then snow as we crested ridges before dropping down to sea level, where there were fleeting glimpses of white-water, mountains of the stuff under a hideous onshore storm.
Six hours later and countless piss stops and attempted surf checks in the dark, we arrived at a little fishing village. Snow filled the air, our tent was still soaking. Offshore waves ran along a little reef just inside the harbour, howling offshore waves. We were all resigned to a night in the car, three guys sleeping upright after a few beers was not going to be great. Ian jumped out and ran into the public lavatory, then sprang out with a smile on his face and jumped back in. “you are not going to believe this, the toilet is huge, it has a shower and heated floors”. Turned out it was the changing room for the local hot spring, we grabbed the tent and bundled in. A better night’s sleep we had not had in ages, the floor heated by geothermal water, and a brief sanctuary from the storm outside.
Morning, we woke early and showered for the one and only time in three weeks. Outside and we were still in the teeth of a gale, snow flurries whipped up out of the semi darkness. We loaded and started driving further, dirt tracks through a broken lava landscape. Setups were under mountains of white-water and onshore and as the snow increased we turned round. A little over seven hours after getting here we reversed the whole journey, this time through way more snow. We checked a lot on the way as the wind steadily started to ease and the swell held. By nightfall we were almost back at our starting place, the wind was dropping fast on a freezing starlit night. The ground at the beach was rock solid, no way we were getting pegs in here, options were short. After an hour or so of checking out other frozen camping spots we opted to drive inside a nearby road tunnel, pull off in a little side cave and just bed down. It wasn’t warm, and fortunately the lack of traffic meant there was no real problem with fumes. Turned out to be a good night’s sleep again. The next few days the wind calmed, the swell pumped and we scored a few waves with local surfer and school teacher Oliver, nothing epic but all fun. Then it was back on the road. Like I said Iceland is all about keeping moving and chasing swells down, which doesn’t always pay off, but it’s worth it just to see the place. One minute you’re on vast open plains, next, you’re beneath erupting volcanoes, then huge glaciers all to finally surf amongst icebergs, sure it ‘aint Indo but as a whole experience it blows other surf trips away.
Half of Iceland’s coast is vast glacial outwash plains stretching for miles, backed by ice covered volcanic domes. Access is minimal, just following random tracks down to tiny coastal communities. At the end often just a surging shore-break, but find a chink in the coast and there is a chance of banks. We spent days searching for these, and found them. One bank would work on an approaching swell and then as the low pressure system swept under Iceland and change the angle, another bank up the beach would fire up. Iceland is a place that is in a constant dynamic flux, whether it is swell direction, wind direction, geology or just the weather you’ve got to be on it, ready to move and never settle in one place.
Nights down here were easier than the week before, the dense volcanic outwash sediment made it easy to pitch up the tent, in hollows behind beaches, or just sheltered beneath cliffs, the dramas of further north were a thing of the past. Nights would clear out to reveal the clearest sky. What looked like really high level cloud would start to spread from the north. This would then start to dance with vertical and horizontal movements, before exploding into greens and purples dancing across the night sky. Every night we’d just lay on the ground in our sleeping bags and enjoy the natural light show provided by the Aurora, totally mesmerizing despite the temperatures being well below zero. Like anything that happens all the time though, you start to take it for granted, by the end of the next few weeks we became totally used to it, in fact on our last morning, an early start to catch a plane, and the sky was blazing green as we checked in for our flights. Out on the taxi ways life went on as normal despite the sky being green, baggage handlers loaded baggage, taxi men guided in planes as if nothing was going on. It was a surreal moment, but that’s Iceland, a constant bombardment of fresh experiences that you simply don’t get anywhere else. It keeps you on your toes, which you need to be if you have any hope of scoring waves along the country’s ever changing coastline.
I know, a slightly contentious title, but I’ve spent the last two weeks interviewing, talking to and listening to a wide range of experts throughout the world from Coca Cola to climate scientists, car manufacturers to plastic activists and the good and bad side of plastics have been fought for and lamented against. It all makes for fascinating reading/thought once you’ve recognised the insane spin attached to some of it.
So plastic must be really bad for climate change, it’s made from oil (4% of fossil fuel production goes to plastic, and then about 3% of fossil fuels is used to fuel its production), it chucks out loads of CO2 when produced and likewise at the other end if its incinerated. But here’s the rub, it’s light, durable and saves Co2 emissions at the other end.
Well consider this, how much plastic is in your car? A lot is the answer. But if there wasn’t so much plastic most of it would have to be replaced with a heavier metal. That extra weight burns more fuel, thus there is an argument that the saving outweighs the production. But there’s more, I got to speak to Coke. I find a Coke produced artefact on every beach from Suffolk to Arctic Norway, so why don’t Coke go back to glass bottles and make the biggest impact on plastic pollution ever? It comes back to weight again, transportation costs in this case; plastic is lighter, more durable, and as the nice fella said, “you can then recycle it, it’s up to people to recycle, not us.”
Trouble is recycling plastic is harder than glass, almost always it just gets turned into a lower grade product, and many countries, especially in the less developed world simply do not have the facility to do it. So right now somewhere between 250 and 500 million tons of Co2 is released into the atmosphere thanks to plastic. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. We do have a role to play in stopping this, especially with bottles. Obviously bottled water is a rip off, so get a reusable one. But what about soft drinks, and other items? We simply have to close the loop, recycling and using non-virgin plastic to make things would reduce plastic’s carbon footprint by between 30-40%, that is significant. At the moment though recycling is so low, so what do we do?
Well the obvious way is simply to offer a deposit return system, it used to work with glass bottles and where it has been trialled it works well for plastic. Surfers Against Sewage are leading the charge on it here in the UK – (sign petition here), it makes for an incentivised recycling programme, because right now the global rate for recycling plastic bottles is in single digits.
And to answer the original question? No plastic is not good for climate change, reducing weight to save on transport costs and fuel is a load of rubbish, better to start again and design something new.