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Activism through adventure

Plastic Patrol will stage the first mass clean-up of its kind today, offering free activities in exchange for litter
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Lizzie Carr, Plastic Patrol

Today (21 September) Plastic Patrol, a global movement to eradicate single-use plastic, is coordinating a series of clean-ups across the UK as well as Europe, Brazil, Thailand, Mexico and the USA to mark World Clean Up Day.

The goal is simple but crucial: to run the first mass activity-based clean-up of its kind, and collectively remove and record 250,000 pieces of rubbish from in nature in just 24 hours.

Each clean-up is activity based, and volunteers will get an opportunity to take part in free activities, from paddle boarding and yoga to plogging and parkour. In return, volunteers are asked to make a payment in the form of a ‘nature tax’: collecting any rubbish they find and recording it in the Plastic Patrol app.

Reconnecting with nature

Plastic Patrol’s approach of combining activities with environmental action creates opportunities for people to reconnect with nature and see the severity of the plastic crisis.

Uniting individuals worldwide to litter pick and log findings in the app enables Plastic Patrol to gather real-time, scientifically robust data to drive long-lasting change, while reinforcing the positive impact of a single person in tackling the crisis.

Finding the leaks

At the helm of Plastic Patrol and the brainchild of this event is founder, Lizzie Carr. Lizzie took up paddle boarding as a means of recovery after a cancer diagnosis. She experienced first-hand the serious impact of plastic pollution affecting the UK waterways and set herself three world-first challenges to draw attention to the global plastics crisis.

In 2016, Lizzie became the first person to paddle board the length of England’s waterways, gaining notoriety for the impressive 400-mile expedition. Solo and unsupported, Lizzie logged more than 2,000 pieces of plastic on an interactive map, which she later named Plastic Patrol.

In 2017, Lizzie went on to become the first female in history to paddle board across the English Channel, taking water samples along the way. Lizzie completed last year’s mission, to paddle board the entire length of the Hudson River in New York, in just eight days.

Each challenge had the same purpose: to raise awareness of the global plastic crisis via the medium of adventure.

‘Litter picking alone is not the solution. It’s an interim measure, and to make it more impactful it must be combined with citizen science. By extracting important data from pollution we find in nature it enables us to build a powerful evidence base that illustrates key problems – from leakages in the circular economy to holes in the recycling infrastructure – and develop ways to address them. By running a global series of clean-ups to mark World Clean Up Day we are continuing to grow our existing repository of data and gathering more insight to help us find solutions.’

Adventurer, activist and founder of Plastic Patrol

Analysing plastic pollution

All data collected on Plastic Patrol’s app will be shared with Plastic Patrol’s partner scientists at the University of Nottingham to analyse, alongside the existing 210,000 examples of pollution uploaded from 66 countries globally to date.

Individuals who are unable to attend organised clean-up sessions are invited to download the Plastic Patrol app (available on android and iOS) and record any litter collected independently on the day – it all counts towards the final amount and every piece is another step towards the goal.

Click here to read our article about Lizzie mapping plastic pollution along England’s waterways.

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