How do you know that your rubbish isn’t polluting the ocean?

Its a tricky one isn’t it!?  You consume something, you put it in the bin, but how do you truly KNOW that your rubbish isn’t polluting the ocean?  We know that since China stopped accepting our rubbish that it is still shipped out to Asia and those countries have no way to deal with it either.  Our rubbish is piling up next to rivers, drifting out on winds, being dumped and then we are blaming others for causing the issues!  Its a crazy world we live in right now.  I have decided to take some action and for me that action is to get out and clean up the beaches I go to, rivers and oceans that I paddle or country lanes I walk along.

The key thing about paddle cleanups for me is the ability to connect with our waterways and to get upfront and personal with the waste that is in it.  By doing this you can clearly see a reflection of our daily lives, discarded ‘away’ as if there is some magic worker bee that will come and clean it all up.  Ok, so I am out there doing exactly that but 70% of the litter is out of reach so we are only tackling the bits that float or get stuck.

The best way to know that your rubbish isn’t polluting the ocean is to produce less waste in the first place!  

See my tips below for how to do that.  Also, get out there and clean up the waterways, streets, river banks etc before it gets to the ocean.

There are other positive impacts to cleaning up your local waterways:

  • Help your stretch of water to look how you want.
  • A great way of meeting others in your community and helping them to learn about plastic and to get involved.
  • Saving marine life
  • Awakening of your own consumer impact on the environment
  • Getting out in nature and doing a good deed is great for your wellbeing.

I have never been one for putting myself in the limelight but a biproduct of wanting to get the right information out and not just preach to the converted, means getting involved with media and press.  The launch was great to get a bit of exposure from BBC North West (even though they got Erin and I mixed up on the footage) and to have local group Plastic Free Chester and the amazing Tim and Ella Meek from Kids Against Plastic join us.  

Within two hours we had to regroup though and squash the bottles we had into the back hatch of the kayaks so we had space to take on more.  It was crazy the amount of rubbish we found just outside Ellesmere Port.  We collected almost 350 plastic bottles in the first morning after which we had to stop as we ran out of space!  It was shocking the amount we picked up on the first day.  Mostly avoidable plastics like plastic bottles, food wrappers and the ever evil polystyrene.


I had arranged with some of the Local Authorities to recycle a lot along the way but after meeting the Canal and River Trust Environment team at the launch they are arranging for our rubbish to be collected from canal side which is ace.  We picked up a staggering amount on day one, over 600 pieces in total. Thankfully the rest of leg 1 was far less plastic orientated and canal juice ming than day one and we pootled through a lot of rather beautiful countryside interspersed with the odd collection of curious cows and super cute ducklings.  See my 5 takeaways from paddling the Length of Wales.


It is now thought that over 9 million pieces of plastic enter our oceans every year.  Most of it is avoidable and we can all make a big impact to this by reducing our plastic footprint.

My top tips to avoid your rubbish polluting the ocean:
  • carry a reusable bottle, coffee cup and cutlery
  • refuse straws
  • use a tote bag instead of a plastic one
  • make your own lunch in a box
  • think carefully about the snacks you buy and the packaging they come in

I feel like we now need to concentrate on finding sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging and it seems that food packaging and plastic bottles are the main culprits to tackle.  So I would encourage you to select your favourite plastic wrapped food, save up your wrappers and send them back to the manufacturers with a note asking them what they are doing to reduce their impact on the environment. It is time that manufacturers started to design products with the end in mind.  If brands like Lush and Patagonia can make huge profits with sustainable values there is no reason why others can’t follow. See the Hugh and Anita campaign #OurPlasticFeedback and join in!

Read my tips for repurposing your river rubbish here.  

More tips to avoid your rubbish polluting the ocean

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