When I joined Paddle Pickup in 2017, I had just handed in my notice at work and when I heard about it, it just felt like I was supposed to do it. I can’t explain why or how I knew that but I just had this feeling and so I signed up for the full 300km paddle despite having never been in a sea kayak before and certainly never paddled for more than an hour stint before. I mostly hoped I could raise some much needed funds for Incredible Oceans and potentially find a solution for some of the plastic we collected. And we collected a lot of rubbish! Over 3000 pieces, a third of which were plastic bottles, the second largest culprit being food packaging. So where is the rubbish now I hear you ask!
It didn’t take me very long to realise that there had been minimal forward planning about what to do with the rubbish itself. Erin had done the reccie of the journey on her bike and hadn’t seen much rubbish so assumed there wasn’t much there. Her usual office and playground is the ocean and so she had been increasingly finding beaches covered in plastic but inland it was less obvious. It was there though, just hidden in the banks and out of sight until you hit the water. I just couldn’t sit back and let it all go into already overflowing village bins and landfill.
With no infrastructure in place to deal with the plastic, and knowing that via Incredible Oceans we could put the waste to good use and reach more people I started to keep it. And so I became the person who was excited about rubbish and the potential of what we could do with it and really it was at that point that Clare Talks Rubbish was born.
So where is the rubbish now?
I washed and saved a lot of the plastic and then took it to various events with Incredible Oceans.
Walking into the prestigious Royal Geographical Society in London with bags of river rubbish was an experience I can’t say I ever thought I would have in life! Incredible Oceans also took it to the World Travel Market and the Telegraph Outdoor and Travel Show where it inspired lots of meaningful conversation.
Any small every day items I kept for education and outreach and to see if I can find solutions after the event.
Shortly after joining the expedition I launched a crowd fund to raise funds for Incredible Oceans to create something with the plastic we found so that it could not only reach more people with the message about plastic, but also show that plastic itself is a valuable and versatile material which deserves more respect. We raised £1500 and then launched a match funding bid with Brighton University to turn our plastic and other beach plastic into an innovative material which would be used to make a life size basking shark for future events. Sadly, that match funding was not successful and so we are currently looking for another project. In the meantime we still have all the waste from that expedition stored and the funding ring-fenced. Watch this space.
Brighton based artist Lou McCurdy and photographer Alex Bamford have used some of the plastic for a recent project highlighting the huge problem of microfibres being released into the environment from our clothes and washing machines.
I am continuing to look for solutions for the waste I find on Paddle Cleanup trips. Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions. In the meantime, I am now working on a new project with the waste I crowdfunded for. Its very exciting so watch this space.