You could be forgiven for thinking there seemed to be rather more activity than usual of the litter picking kind on and around the Ria during Sunday 6th June – there was indeed and all because of plastic soup!
So, what is plastic soup – and more to the point, what is it doing in our Ria? And for anyone wondering what a Ria is, that is the correct geographical term for a flooded valley, obviously best known as an estuary.
Plastic soup is all the plastic waste that is ending up in the oceans and seas of the world. It comes from the plastic we throw away on the street, dump in rivers, leave behind in parks, from fishing nets that are discarded, from washing synthetic clothing, brushing our teeth … and the list goes on.
All these different types of plastic combine to form the plastic soup in the seas. Weathering, sunlight and wave action break down large pieces into small bits. This exacerbates the pollution and because plastic is non-biodegradable, this deadly concoction is responsible for the deaths of many marine animals.
The plastic continues degenerating into ever smaller pieces to the point where we can't see it any more but by then microplastics are entering our food chain through the fish we eat, the water we drink, even via the air we breathe.
Clearly plastic soup is not good news anywhere and most certainly not in our Ria!
End Plastic Soup is a global Rotary initiative which started in Amsterdam in 2018 by Rotarians fishing for plastic to clean up their canals. This initiative is already supported by 3500 members from some 800 Rotary Clubs worldwide with the End Plastic Soup Goal being that by 2050 there is no more plastic soup in the oceans or seas; no more plastic waste in our lakes, rivers and forests; in our parks nor on our streets.
6th June was End Plastic Soup Action Day which is why 30 members of Kingsbridge Estuary Rotary Club joined forces with family; friends; members of the South Hams Society together with a keen and willing group of helpful interns from the St Andrews Foundation under the guidance of Cathy Koo, plus Gary Jolliffe of local Community Interest Company Till the Coast is Clear, both on foot and afloat to help Clean Up our Ria!
Whether tramping the foreshore where accessible; clearing open water out in boats and dinghies; a steady-footed SUP-per picking whilst paddleboarding; or nosing their way by kayak into those harder to reach places where litter lurks, the combined efforts netted an impressive number of bags of rubbish by the end of the day. When the collection was assembled at the Bandstand, Rotary members who had been working in small teams could really appreciate the scale of the problem.
And yet, according to Gary, the Ria is probably the cleanest it has been for some 20 years! Due in no small part to the 2.5 tons of waste Till the Coast is Clear has already removed since their activities began.
Till the Coast is Clear (TTCIC) is striving to make the world a better place, one piece of plastic and one happy soul at a time. Gary and his team regenerate places and people by clearing shorelines of plastic pollution using special recyclable boats and a fleet of kayaks made from recycled fishing nets, all crewed by volunteers from all walks of life.
Improving the condition of our natural environment and connecting people to the great outdoors for improved physical and mental health is their mission; they call it ‘Active Regeneration’ and it works!
Sufficiently so to have caught the attention of both BBC Countryfile and Spotlight but in case you missed them or would like to find out more, perhaps even get involved as a volunteer, why not check out their website : https://www.tillthecoastisclear.co.uk/
As Gary explains, “The scale of the challenges that face us all are daunting. Working together and getting stuck in is the only solution. We are very fortunate at TTCIC to enjoy amazing support from our sponsors - Devon Environment Foundation; Coastal Recycling; Rockfish; Cogen; Nkuku and Soar Mill Cove Hotel – without whom none of what we do would be possible.”
Beverley Harman, Chair of Kingsbridge Estuary Rotary Club’s Community Service Committee who co-ordinated the local effort with Gary added, “We are so fortunate to live in such a beautiful area where people do in the main take a pride in their surroundings but even so, we were surprised to see just how much plastic waste there was around, out on the water and on the foreshore. Multiply that by everywhere else – add in ‘extra’ for those areas where far greater quantities of waste are found from industrial pollution which thankfully we don’t suffer from in the ria – and you start to see just how huge the problem of ‘plastic soup’ is.”
“By working with Gary who shared his considerable knowledge and experience both before and on the day, together with members of The South Hams Society (the local environmental and heritage charity who have been championing the local area since 1961), it is possible to make a difference. It may only be small but if everyone took responsibility for their own waste, in their own area, maybe the End Plastic Soup Goal can become a reality.”